5-alarm fire snarls Baltimore traffic
Firefighters work to control a massive blaze in the 400 block of Baltimore Street in downtown Baltimore known as The Block. (Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun via Associated Press)
BALTIMORE -- A five-alarm fire broke out Monday afternoon in a building in Baltimore's adult-entertainment district, spreading quickly, sending thick smoke throughout downtown and snarling traffic.
Balitmore police warned that drivers should be alert to road closures in the area and beware of icy conditions on the roads as the temperature dips.
Fire spokesman Battalion Chief Kevin Cartwright said the blaze started in one building then spread to four or five others. Two buildings were evacuated, he said, including one that houses fire department offices. The area is known as The Block.
Cartwright said no injuries were reported.
Grayish smoke billowed out of at least one of the buildings, blanketing downtown and firefighters on ladders and cranes poured water on the flames.
The Block is a neighborhood of strip clubs with gaudy lights, including Larry Flynt's Hustler Club. Some of the venues are historic theaters.
Police said road closures extended from President Street to Calvert Street and Lombard Street to Lexington Street.
Joanna Trela, 38, an office manager for a law firm, works on the 27th floor of a building overlooking the fire scene. She said she looked out the window and spotted the fire after an attorney in her firm suggested that something was wrong with the ventilation system.
"We smelled it," Trela said.
The fire had her temporarily stranded.
"The most frustrating part is, they shut down the parking garage, so nobody in our building can leave, so we're all kind of hanging out," Trela said.
The area is no stranger to fires.
The Baltimore fire of 1904, which destroyed much of the city, also wiped out The Block, which then had offices and clothing stores, The Baltimore Sun reported. A movie house complex was built at 404 E. Baltimore Street, where Monday's fire is believed to have started.
Fires also broke out in the area in 1935 and the late 1960s.
Thick smoke rises over Baltimore. (By Robert K. Hamilton / The Baltimore Sun via Associated Press)