BALTIMORE — Homeless people trying to stay warm accidentally set fire to an abandoned warehouse today, causing a huge blaze that destroyed the building and a neighboring business complex, authorities said.
The block-long complex housed about 50 businesses, including a recording studio, a video production company, a photography studio and a graphic arts office.
"We lost everything," said Michael Wells, who worked for Diamond in the Ruff, the video production company. "We were all small businesses. We couldn't afford insurance."
Wells filmed the fire with one of the four cameras he was able to grab while running out of the building.
The fire broke out shortly after midnight in an abandoned mattress warehouse in the southwest district, burning the building to a shell. Heat and embers spread the blaze to the adjacent Hollins Street Exchange building, which was also destroyed. The fire was not declared controlled until after 7 a.m.
Three firefighters suffered minor injuries and damage was estimated at $3 million, Fire Chief Herman Williams said.
Arson investigators questioned about 30 homeless people, who started the fire trying to stay warm. Nighttime temperatures have dipped to 29 degrees.
Fire officials called the 11-alarm fire the largest in the city in recent memory. About 200 firefighters were at the scene, including some from suburban counties who helped city crews.