UPDATE 11/22: According to the St. Joseph Fire Department, crews are still battling hot spots. The walls that were at risk of collapsing Monday night are still standing, but cracks have continued to form. The fire department is having crews avoid the area until they can better assess their stability. A city inspector is also surveying the building from a bucket truck, but until bricks are cleared they cannot start to determine a cause of the fire.
Crews are continuing to monitor the Pioneer Building in the downtown St. Joseph after it caught on fire Monday morning.
The building was built in 1872, and is also known as the Tootle Opera House. The Family Guidance Center occupied the building until 2008. The four story building was for sale and vacant when the fire started.
Ten minutes after fire crews arrived on the scene, nearby buildings and businesses were ordered to evacuate.
Firefighters spent hours spraying water to push in the sides of the building, in order to safely collapse the walls. As of 5:00 p.m., the east and south sides of the building were about 50 percent collapsed, according to Mike Neylon with the St. Joseph Fire Department.
Parts of the building fell into the alleyway and on top of a neighboring building, causing a small fire.
"It had chimneyed. It was going straight up in the air,” said Neylon, the fire department’s chief training officer.
This is the second major fire in downtown St. Joseph this month. The other fire also started in a vacant building.
"You get lots of vacant buildings on fire but the size, you are correct, fires of this size don’t happen all of the time. And they should not happen all of the time,” said Neylon.
Ariel Rothfield can be reached at Ariel.Rothfield@KSHB.com.