A two-alarm building fire on the east side of 20th and Broadway closed traffic, shut down the railroad tracks in the area Sunday night and left the downtown area engulfed in smoke.
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Multiple units from the Wichita Fire Department were called to the fire, and more than 50 firefighters were on the scene within minutes, according to Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell.
The fire was reported at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
“Fire was reported in the building,” Blackwell said. “The first arriving crew arrived four minutes later and reported smoke and flames visible from the roof and to the storefronts on North Broadway.”
The building had no active businesses occupying it. Signs on the building indicated it had been used as a Boost Mobile location, a nail salon and, Blackwell said, a restaurant had been located in the building but had moved out.
As firefighters fought the flames, there was often zero visibility.
Fire crews were reportedly knocking down the walls of neighboring businesses in an effort to keep the flames from spreading.
“Firefighters deployed a series of aerial and elevated streams. The fire had vented itself through the roof. (Firefighters) forced entry into the building with heavy water streams,” Blackwell said. “At one point during the firefight, we were forced from the building due to concerns of possible collapse.”
Fire investigators were on the scene as the fire continued to burn as of 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
No injuries have been reported from the fire.
“We believe the building is empty,” Blackwell said. “We believe the interior is wide open and vacant, but we have not been able to confirm that. Fires of this nature, particularly in older buildings, pose some significant challenges and concerns for the firefighters themselves. When they arrived, visibility was near zero outside the building. It was great cause for concern.”
Blackwell said shortly after 8 p.m. that firefighters had made significant headway on the fire, but crews will remain on the scene throughout the night.