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Large Fire Destroys Abandoned Squirrel Hill Building, Causes Façade Collapse

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Demolition work began in Squirrel Hill late Thursday night after a four-alarm fire consumed a vacant commercial building in the neighborhood's busy business district earlier in the day.

Smoke and flames began pouring from the two-story, brick building at the corner of Murray and Forward Avenues around 5 p.m. The building is located next to the old Poli restaurant that closed a few years ago.

KDKA's Ralph Iannotti Reports:

Deputy Pittsburgh Fire Chief Thomas Cook said about 60 firefighters were on scene battling the flames.

There were no injuries to either firefighters or civilians.

However, at least one firefighter had to scramble out of the way as a portion of the brick façade of the building facing Forward Avenue came crashing down.

There had been several businesses on the ground level of the building; however, they were not occupied. The building has been vacant for about six to seven years and the owners have been trying to sell it.

"In the early-'80s, the karate place opened – the USA Professional Karate – and my sister was the first female student that they had, but about seven or so years ago, the karate place and all the other places there were kicked out," said Dan Alman, of Squirrel Hill. "Somebody said they were going to build condos for 350,000, which I knew nobody would ever pay for that at that intersection."

Sidney Vasilevich, who lives in the neighborhood, told KDKA TV's Ralph Iannotti, "It was scary, smoke from the fire filled up the whole entire block. It's wild!"

Another local resident, John Freeman, said, "My son and I saw a little smoke, then the fire quickly got out of control."

KDKA's Paul Martino Has Community Reaction:

Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O'Connor called the intersection where the fire erupted "the gateway to Squirrel Hill."

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

The city says a contractor hopes to have demolition complete and streets in the neighborhood should be reopened for the morning rush hour.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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