The entire Pueblo community is going to feel the effects of a devastating fire that ripped through downtown Tuesday night, officials said in a news conference Wednesday.
The fire damaged or destroyed half a dozen businesses, including a sporting goods store that the Pueblo fire chief said was the first one he had ever shopped at.
"It will affect the public," Chief Dale Villers said.
Villers' comments came the morning after, as firefighters continue to put out hot spots among the wreckage left on the 300 block of Court Street. After extinguishing much of the blaze, firefighters worked all night long to ensure there were no flare ups.
The fire department was first alerted around 6:40 p.m. Tuesday to smoke showing in a downtown building. As soon as firefighters got to the scene, they realized they were going to need backup.
Authorities believe the fire started in an office supply store, then spread to the Johnson Sport and Ski shop. The fire was so intense that firefighters had to stop their initial attack from the inside of the building and move to the exterior for safety reasons.
Bright orange flames could be seen shooting up from the building as the roof caved in, and billowing smoke could be seen for miles. By the time firefighters got the upper hand on the blaze, six businesses had been damaged or destroyed. The fire department says the businesses share a hallway, which is why the flames could spread so quickly from shop to shop. No one was inside any of the businesses when the fire started.
At one point, firefighters evacuated a parking garage across the street amid concerns the fire could spread. People were also advised to avoid being within a two block radius of the fire due to the smoke.
There were no injuries to any firefighters. One police officer sustained injuries during a confrontation with a bystander while doing crowd control. Villers didn't elaborate further, other than to say that the officer was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Pueblo West Fire, Pueblo Rural Fire and American Medical Response were all called in to help the Pueblo Fire Department.
At this time, it's unknown what started the fire. Villers said Wednesday that they want to make sure all hot spots are eliminated before allowing investigators to sift through the damage.
"We want to make sure fire is out and keep smoke to a minimum," Villers said.
The instability of the roof is also an issue. Villers said portions of it remain intact, but is unstable, making it difficult to get water to parts of the fire. That's why, according to Villers, there are still hot spots.
Les Anderson told 11 News he stood and watched the properties he has owned for more than 60 years burn to the ground. He and his wife bought all the properties damaged or destroyed in the fire in 1951.
It was a "sad day," he told 11 News.