Three-alarm fire rips through commercial building in Hillcrest

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A three-alarm fire tore through a nearly century-old retail-residential building in Hillcrest Wednesday, extensively damaging the structure, displacing about a dozen residents and forcing an hours-long closure of University Avenue, the uptown community's main thoroughfare.

Roofers working atop an adjacent Italian restaurant accidentally created sparks that set the old wooden structure in the 1000 block of University Avenue ablaze shortly after 3 p.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Firefighters initially battled the non-injury fire from inside the three- story building but had to clear out after about 20 minutes due to the intensity of the smoke and flames, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque said.

They then began dousing the roof from three 90-foot-tall “water pipe” ladders dispensing 300 gallons of water per minute each, Luque said.

Emergency crews evacuated the entire block and shut down University Avenue in the area.

An hour after the blaze erupted, heavy smoke was still surging out of the building, and water was pouring out of upper-floor windows as firefighters continued to saturate the structure.

As of 6:30 p.m., crews still had not declared the fire under control, though they expected to soon, Luque said.

The building — which houses an import goods store and a clothing shop on the ground floor and 15 apartments on the second and third stories — is believed to have been built nearly 100 years ago.

The upper two floors of the structure appeared to have been destroyed by the fire, and the street-level spaces sustained extensive water damage, according to Luque.

A total of 113 crew members fought the blaze, equipped with 14 fire engines and six trucks, Luque said.

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