Raging fire burns abandoned building in downtown Birmingham - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Raging fire burns abandoned building in downtown Birmingham

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Flames shoot from the top of a vacant building that caught on fire in the 1800 block of 1st Ave. North in Birmingham. Source: WBRC video Flames shoot from the top of a vacant building that caught on fire in the 1800 block of 1st Ave. North in Birmingham. Source: WBRC video
15 fire crews responded to put out the blaze. Source: WBRC video 15 fire crews responded to put out the blaze. Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
Gabbie Guevara took this photo of the building fire downtown and shared it with us on Facebook. Source: Gabbie Guevara Gabbie Guevara took this photo of the building fire downtown and shared it with us on Facebook. Source: Gabbie Guevara
Crews are starting to tear down the former S.G. Bennet Professional building that burned Friday. Source: Vanessa Araiza Crews are starting to tear down the former S.G. Bennet Professional building that burned Friday. Source: Vanessa Araiza
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Firefighters are still putting out hot spots among the ruins of a vacant building that burned in downtown Birmingham Friday.

The raging fire sent billows of black smoke across the city's skyline, causing visibility issues on the street level as the thick smoke filled the air for blocks.

Fifteen units of firefighters responded to the three-alarm fire in the 1800 block of 1st Avenue North around 11:40 a.m. Friday at the former S.G. Bennett Professional building.

Firefighters said building has been vacant for around a decade. It formerly housed offices, a print shop and an insurance company.

When Birmingham Mayor William Bell got to the scene, he said he was told the fire may have started 30 minutes before anyone noticed it burning, which could explain why it was so big.

[MORE PHOTOS: Large fire in downtown Birmingham]

Crowds gathered on the nearby streets and rooftops to watch as firefighters worked to extinguish the flames that could be seen shooting out of the building's windows. Crews battled the blaze for a solid hour before the smoke began to turn from black to white, signaling the end of the fire's fury.

The burned building is about a block away from the McWane Science Center and near some residential buildings including the Phoenix lofts and the Jemison flats.

One resident of Jemison flats, Cynthia Upton, says firefighters evacuated people from her building and made sure everyone was safe.

A fire official said the blaze started on the building's second floor. It's still too early to determine what caused the fire, but other recent fires in Birmingham make some people wonder if vagrants could be responsible.

Captain Gregory Elston said firefighters spoke with a gentleman who knew of people who frequented the building but he couldn't say if anyone was still in there or not.

Crews are still going through the remaining rubble putting out hot spots. So far, no bodies have been found and no injuries have been reported in the blaze.

Copyright 2013 WBRC. All rights reserved.

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