Spectacular fire rips through Moose Jaw building

A massive heritage building has been destroyed by fire in downtown Moose Jaw.
The fire started on the third floor of the brick building and quickly spread to the lower floors, freelance photographer Wil Stevens said. ((Submitted by Wil Stevens))

A massive heritage building has been destroyed by fire in downtown Moose Jaw, Sask.

The fire broke out around 7:30 p.m. Thursday night in the historic former YWCA building, fire officials said.

The four-storey building on Ominica Street West wasn't occupied. It was being turned into condominiums.

Moose Jaw fire commander Bill Cameron told CBC News he could see the flames roaring from the brick building six blocks away as he and his crews raced to the scene.

Firefighters spent the whole night fighting the blaze on the downtown Moose Jaw street. ((Submitted by Wil Stevens) )

"It was probably the most fully involved [fire] I've ever seen, and I've been here for 32 years," he said. "When we pulled up —  we were here quick — and it was through the roof and coming out just about all the windows."

Freelance photographer Wil Stevens, who lives about a block away, had been listening to a police scanner and rushed to the scene with his camera.

"The fire was going full force when I got there," he said. "The place went up like a book of matches."

Dozens of people gathered to watch from a distance. The heat peeled paint off vehicles that were close to the blaze, Stevens said.  

By morning, the back of the building had collapsed. ((Jordan Jackle/CBC))

Firefighters spent the night battling the blaze, but could do nothing to save the building. Two neighbouring homes were heavily damaged as well.

Stevens said part of the west wall of the building collapsed on a house next door.

Officials closed down the government building next door as a precaution, in case the remaining brick walls collapse.

They will be knocked down later Friday.

Police and fire investigators will be on the scene to try to figure out how the blaze started.

An estimate of the damage wasn't available.