BALTIMORE - A five-alarm fire broke out yesterday afternoon in Baltimore's adult-entertainment district, spreading quickly and sending thick smoke throughout downtown and snarling traffic.
Battalion Chief Kevin Cartwright, a fire-department spokesman, said the blaze started about 4 p.m. in a three-story building, then spread to five or six others. Two buildings were evacuated, he said, including one that houses fire-department offices in the area known as "The Block."
A strong wind added to the intensity of the fire, he said.
No injuries were reported, Cartwright said. He said that the blaze was under control about 7 p.m. and that firefighters were extinguishing hot spots.
Grayish smoke had billowed out of at least one of the buildings, blanketing downtown, and firefighters on ladders and cranes poured water on the flames.
Cartwright said that the cause of the fire was under investigation. There was no damage estimate.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said city buildings near the fire would be inspected for smoke damage.
Joanna Trela, 38, an office manager for a law firm, works on the 27th floor of a building overlooking the fire scene. She said that she looked out the window and spotted the fire after an attorney in her firm suggested that something was wrong with the ventilation system.
"We smelled it," Trela said.
The fire had her temporarily stranded.
"The most frustrating part is, they shut down the parking garage, so nobody in our building can leave, so we're all kind of hanging out," Trela said.
Alex LeBlanc, a management consultant who works a few blocks away, was pulling into a parking garage when he saw the thick cloud of smoke.
"I haven't seen smoke like that before. From three blocks away, it was just black," LeBlanc said.
The Block is a neighborhood of strip clubs with gaudy lights, including Larry Flynt's Hustler Club. Some of the venues are historic theaters. The area is between Baltimore City Hall and the Inner Harbor.
The Baltimore fire of 1904, which destroyed much of the city, also wiped out The Block, which then had offices and clothing stores, the Baltimore Sun reported. A movie-house complex was built at 404 E. Baltimore St., where yesterday's fire is believed to have started.
Fires also broke out in the area in 1935 and the late 1960s.