TEXARKANA, TX (KSLA) - East Texas fire investigators are trying to determine the origin of a blaze that caused extensive damage to an historic building.
The call came in just before 12:30 Monday afternoon, as smoke filled the sky over downtown Texarkana. The massive black billows, along with flames, blew out of a two-story Masonic temple there.
Adra Hallford called emergency services as she passed by the building in the 200 block of West 7th Street.
"I saw smoke bellowing out of the windows and the little metal grates," she said.
When crews arrived - from both sides of the state border - they were able to get inside the building and search for possible occupants. But within a matter of minutes, the interior blaze battling came to an end.
"We need to back up in case it collapses," a firefighter said during the fire. "We need to go back up."
Firefighters had to make a quick exit when the blaze began engulfing the second floor of the building. The fire even inched close enough to an electricity line to make it pop.
Gerard Morse works next to the burning building, and he was one of the first to arrive on the scene.
"When I came out, I said there was a fire coming out of the center of the building and a fireman said it was in a closet, so apparently it started in a closet up there," he said. "And it is all wood up there and the rafters and an old ceiling have been torn out."
Over the past year, several historic structures in downtown Texarkana have burned. City officials said this lodge was built in 1922 as a Masonic temple.
"It is a part of our culture and our history that we are losing," Hallford said. "It is also a part that gives us an edge as an historical downtown and to watch neglect have this type of effect, it just breaks my heart."
City leaders couldn't say exactly how long it has been since the building was used as a Masonic lodge, but it has been many years, they said.
Investigators are looking into the cause of the fire.