Fire crews are battling a blaze at a large commercial structure fire just outside Tacoma.
The fire is burning at a building at 97th Street East and Portland Avenue East.
Crews were called at 9:35 a.m., Tacoma fire reports.
Several engines are on the scene. Firefighters have gone to a defensive attack on the flames.
UPDATE: The fire is burning inside the Old Midland Feed Mill, Central Pierce Fire & Rescue spokesman Matt Holm said.
The mill has been abandoned since the mid-1990s, when it closed down. There was a fire in the four-story structure shortly after the mill closed but Holm said the blaze wasn’t big enough to prompt a demolition of the building.
This fire appears to be different.
“It’s going pretty good,” Holm said.
A bystander called in the fire. When crews arrived, they found heavy smoke and flames coming from the building.
They’ve had six ladder trucks pouring water into the building but it wasn’t doing much good, Holm said. The wooden mill is encased in corrugated aluminum metal and the interior of the building is roaring with fire.
“Water is running all over the place,” he said.
Commanders have talked to the building’s owner and decided to stop pouring water on the structure, for now. Holm said crews are hoping the roof will collapse on the building so firefighters can again starting putting water on the flames.
“It’s an unusual tactic,” Holm said. “Once we get roof to collapse, then we can come in from above.”
Right now, Holm said, the building is “more of a hazard to the community.” He said there have been problems over the years with juveniles and transients getting inside the boarded up, abandoned building.
No injuries have been reported so far.
1:40 p.m. UPDATE: The fire is now out. Firefighters stopped pouring water on the mill for about 20 minutes in hopes the roof would collapse on itself. That didn’t happen, Holm said.
“It was just creating too much black smoke,” he said. “We just put it out.”
Crews repositioned a ladder truck, found a hole in the roof and stuck the nozzle from the hose on the ladder truck into the hole. They blasted the inside with water, finally dousing the flames, Holm said.
The structure, however, is a complete loss. It’s also a collapse hazard.
Crews have closed down 17th Avenue East – in both directions – between 97th Street East and 99th Street East. The fire agency is working with the building owner and Pierce County to bring in equipment to demolish the building.
The road will be closed until the old mill comes down.
Meanwhile, investigators were working to determine the cause of the fire, Holm said.
3:20 p.m. UPDATE: The Pierce County Fire Marshal’s Office has reported about $100,000 in damages; most of the building’s equipment and valuable materials were removed years ago. There were no reported injuries. Firefighters remain at the scene to extinguish minor fire flare-ups.