Three-Alarm Commercial Fire Closes Part of Grandville Avenue, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, MI -- An intense fire gutted a commercial building Thursday morning on the southwest side of Grand Rapids.

It happened around 4 a.m. fire at the former London Theatre in the 1400 block of Grandville Avenue.

Firefighters knew they had a tough job on their hands before they arrived as phone lines lit up at the city's 911 center. A second alarm was ordered before crews arrived on the scene.

The flames were so intense that nearby residents had to be evacuated.

"I was worried. I thought maybe it was gonna catch fire too...that part of the reason police wanted us to evacuate," Stephen Scarberry told 24 Hour News 8.

Firefighters tried entering the first floor of the building but were forced back. They took a defensive mode to try and protect homes and businesses near the fire.

By daybreak, three hours later, the building was a smoldering ruin.

It still poses a danger as the walls weakened by the fire are threatening to fall.

"We have some occupants who can't open their businesses until the walls are down," said Battalion Chief Dan Stoddard of the Grand Rapids Fire Department.

A wrecking crew will have to come in and take the walls down.

The weather also caused some problems for firefighters along with slippery conditions. The front of the building froze, but fire crews were able to quickly tap into other hydrants in the neighborhood.

The theatre had been converted into business space, though much of it remained empty. Crews don't believe anyone was inside when the fire started.