Firefighters collapse old Pasadena building to extinguish blaze

Fire crews at the scene of the building fire Friday in Pasadena

May 19, 2012 5:33:26 AM PDT
Firefighters had to collapse an old building in Pasadena to bring a three-alarm blaze that erupted Friday afternoon under control.

By nighttime, debris was all that remained of the former church. No injuries were reported, but for seven hours, officials kept a major street closed and put many lives on hold.

It began as a small trail of smoke, but erupted into a three-alarm fire, all in a matter of minutes. It took what had once been the Sharron Lutheran Church building with it. In the 60's, it was a mega-church of its day in the then small city of Pasadena.

The city's fire chief, Laney Armstrong, remembers it well -- at its best and in recent years, at its worst.

"It's been vacant for quite a while; we've had some issues with vagrancy, and the building wasn't secured. It's been for sale for quite a while," Armstrong said.

The building was beyond saving. Next door, though, was a daycare with 30 children inside. The children were evacuated safely to a nearby YMCA.

"They were excited, they thought we were going on a field trip actually. They're like, 'Oh a fire!' and then when we took off, we're gong on a field trip," day care employee Victoria Garza said.

The Pasadena Fire Department is volunteer. Those volunteers had worked early Friday morning on another large fire. So when this fire erupted, the Houston Fire Department pitched in. With combined forces, the fire was brought under control.

Meanwhile, people stood across the street and watched what they'd seen for years crumble before them.

"I seen it but nobody ever paid attention to it. And then a 10, 20 minutes later, the whole thing, trees were catching on fire," neighbor Jordan Martinez said.

The fire wasn't completely out by early evening when a bulldozer pulled the gutted building to the ground. The building had been for sale, now on the land has value.

Officials had blocked off the Red Bluff, the street on which the church sat, until they had the fire under control.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but a day care worker tells us she that she had heard two people were seen running from the building just moments before the blaze.

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