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Crews Battle Early Morning Fire In Pittsburgh's Lower Hill

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A large fire destroyed an abandoned church in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District earlier Tuesday morning.

The first crews were called around 3 a.m. to the former Miller Street Baptist Church at the corner of Miller and Colwell Streets, in the city's Crawford-Roberts neighborhood.

The blaze moved quickly.

"We set up a defensive operation. There weren't any exposures that were threatened by the fire. We had road access where we were able to get an aerial ladder on three different points of access safely outside the collapsed zone," said Deputy Chief Michael Mullen from the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Maya Elaine shared her videos with KDKA-TV, which she said were taken just moments after the three-alarm fire started. She said she lives in a building behind the burning structure.

Heavy flames and smoke could be seen coming from the abandoned church. Firefighters said the intensity of the fire worked in their favor in at least one way.

"What helped us a lot was that the fire was so heavily involved that the roof of the main sanctuary collapsed, which actually was a good thing," said Michael Mullen. "It gave us access to put water on the fire."

What wasn't helpful were the fire brands, which are large embers floating through the air.

"They were floating going west with the wind here, so the police were put on brand patrol," Mullen said.

Firefighters were content to fight the flames from a distance.

"It was a real spectacular fire, but it wasn't going to catch anything else on fire," said Mullen. "We handled it in the safest way we could by keeping people outside the collapse zone and using the maximum amount of water we could on it."

No one was inside the building and injuries were reported during the fire.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Brian Smithmyer)

Firefighters say because of the extent of the damage, it will be difficult for investigators to determine how this fire started.

The scene is located just blocks to the east of PPG Paints Arena.

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