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Firefighters Battle Massive Fire At Commercial Building In Williamsburg

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) - A massive fire continues to burn in Brooklyn, causing smoky conditions in the area.

Firefighters rushed to the scene of a four-story commercial building at 5 North 11th St. in Williamsburg around 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

Nearly 300 firefighters are now battling the blaze as well as two FDNY boats. Firefighters expect the blaze to rage through the night and into Sunday morning.11090454

Firefighters Battle 5-Alarm Fire At Commercial Building In Williamsburg

As 1010 WINS' Gary Baumgarten reported, firefighters put out a relatively minor fire at the warehouse around 4:30 a.m., Saturday. But two hours later, they were called again for another alarm. When they showed up, the FDNY said the fire was already out of control.

"Upon arrival, we had extremely heavy fire conditions, immediately went to outside attack," Fire Chief James Leonard said.

The FDNY told CBS2 the fierce wind is making it tough to fight the fire. Fire officials said it could be hours before they have the fire under control.

Fire Spokesman Jim Long said firefighters are being rotated and given breaks from fighting the flames because of the cold temperature and whipping winds.

"It's a prolonged process,'' Long said. "Wind is a big factor.''

Firefighters Battle 7-Alarm Fire At Commercial Building In Williamsburg

As CBS2's Ilana Gold reported, smoke could be seen from miles away. On the ground, the smoke is smothering and making it hard to breathe for residents in the area.

From the hoses to the hydrants to firefighters' unions, everything froze and made conditions more dangerous.

A photo posted on Twitter by the FDNY shows thermal imaging technology used to fight the fire, where firefighters can see where it is most intense.

"A lot of smoke, yeah, primarily that's the problem right now, a lot of smoke," Chief of Battalion 35, Gary Chamberlain told 1010 WINS' Roger Stern. "We have a marine unit operating from the river which is causing the smoke to blow this way."

The smoke was so thick that at one point a firefighter carrying a flashlight walked into Stern because they couldn't see each other from several feet away.

People could be seen walking with their faces covered as ash from the fire flew around.

Fire officials urged area residents to stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed.

One man who showed up to the warehouse for work told CBS2 they store documents and boxes for local businesses. All of the cardboard and paper is fueling the fire, Gold reported.

"I think it's real crazy, you know," warehouse employee Robbie Goodwin said. "Waking up this morning, trying to come to work -- I was scheduled to work -- and all of a sudden you see this; that's crazy."

FDNY sources tell CBS2's Matt Kozar the industrial building near the East River was stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of records.

Long said paper inside the building helped spread flames that weakened the structure, making it susceptible to collapse.

Firefighters Battle Massive Fire At Commercial Building In Williamsburg

The smoldering warehouse sent up a huge cloud of smoke, WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported.

According to the New York Times, the state court system, the city Health and Hospitals Corporation, and member hospitals of the Greater New York Hospital Association all had records stored at the warehouse.

In a statement to 1010 WINS, Health and Hospitals Corporation said "HHC uses City Storage to archive older records. We don't yet know if any of these records have been damaged by the fire. Fortunately, as an early adopter of electronic medical records systems, HHC keeps duplicates of vital patient records in electronic form and we do not anticipate this will affect our operations."

A FDNY captain said no one was inside when the fire began, Gold reported.

So far, no injuries have been reported.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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