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Three-Alarm Fire In Downtown El Paso Destroys Building

El Paso fire investigators are examining the remains of a charred structure that once was a piece of the city’s history.

The building, at the intersection of San Antonio Ave. and S. El Paso St., went up in flames shortly after 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

More than 100 firefighters arrived at the scene to find heavy smoke and flames shooting out of the first floor window. Fire officials said the flames spread to the second and third floors.

The fire raged for hours, destroying the building and damaging its structural integrity. Fire crews had to knock down the top floors to help control the blaze and keep the building from collapsing.

A fire department spokesman told ABC-7 that this is the first three-alarm fire in several years. The flames did not spread to any neighboring buildings and no injuries have been reported.

City Rep. Steve Ortega was at the scene of the fire Thursday night and told ABC-7 the burning building belonged to Gerald Rubin, CEO of Helen of Troy. ABC-7 is still working on independently confirming the ownership, but we did find that River Oaks Properties manages the building.

Firefighters said an official cause for the fire had not yet been determined, but Ortega said he believed the way the fire spread so quickly was due to neglect on the part of the building’s owner.

“This is what happens when we have property owners who don’t take care of their buildings,” said Ortega. “It’s infuriating as an El Pasoan seeing history go up in flames. This is one of the most historic buildings in downtown El Paso. It’s where John Wesley Hardin had his law office. It goes back to the late 1800s.”

Investigators were expected to begin examining the ruins once the sun came up. Crews battling hot spots told ABC-7 they were unsure if the investigators would be able to get into the structure.

Several downtown streets remain shut down as firefighters continue barricading the area.

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