Large fire damages vacant warehouse on West Broadway

Updated: May. 29, 2019 at 12:37 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Firefighters battled a fire at a five-story warehouse in the Russell neighborhood of Louisville on Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze began on the first floor shortly before 3 p.m. at the corner of 15th Street and West Broadway, and caused heavy damage throughout the building.

A statement from the Louisville Division of Fire indicated the two-alarm blaze required more than 50 firefighters and 15 apparatus to extinguish. Traffic was blocked on Broadway between 13th and 15th streets for several hours.

“It’s a dangerous situation, you know," Tony Rhodes, who called 911 when he first saw the fire, said. "These temperatures the way they are.”

People passing by took pictures as the vacant five story building, layered with debris, smoldered.

“I was like, where is all this smoke coming from," Eugene Watson, who witnessed the fire, said. "I got closer and closer and was like man I’m going to go on Facebook Live with my homies.”

No injuries were reported. It wasn’t immediately known what might have started the fire.

Once it was clear no people were hurt, some passing by began to worry about the survival of the building -- one that has a lengthy story to tell.

“Once alive and vibrant, now, it’s dying,” Kevin Afrika said.

Afrika said a family member of his once worked in the building.

The long-vacant warehouse was set to be redeveloped by Housing Partnership Inc. (HPI) into a $34 million mixed-use development.

It was originally built in 1922, as a candy factory.

“It’s a passing of an era," Afrika said. "You know, it really is.”

Metro leaders said they saw its future development as a way to spur economic growth along West Broadway during a previous event announcing the investment.

WAVE 3 News reached out to the developers Tuesday evening to see how the fire might effect their plans.

Wednesday, they confirmed the development is still a go in a joint statement from One West and HPI:

“The building fire reinforces the need to redevelop the property and does not hinder our plan to more forward on redeveloping. We are thankful for the Louisville firefighters and their quick response and for no one being injured.”

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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