WINSTON SALEM, N.C. -- Firefighters are investigating the cause of a fire that broke out overnight at the vacant former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco buildings on Fifth Street in downtown Winston-Salem.
The Winston-Salem Fire Department said crews were able to extinguish the flames by 4:14 a.m., three hours after the call came in at 1:34 a.m.
The fire department said no one was injured in the fire, as the buildings are vacant and under construction for renovation.
According to Wake Forest University's news website, the renovation project is one of the country's biggest economic development projects and encompasses the former R.J. Reynolds buildings in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. It is the intended future site of a downtown research park, an estimated investment of $500 million.
Wake Forest Innovation Quarter president Eric Tomlinson said, "We anticipate there will be no impact whatsoever on the development on the innovation quarter. In fact, today is the opening for the 90s building, which has been under renovation for the past several months. So, everything as far as we can tell, is on track."
The fire department said the steel catwalk - used for fork lifts -connecting the 500 E. Fifth St. building to Wake Forest's 403 Vine St. building collapsed during the fire, which eventually made it easier for crews to extinguish the blaze. Tomlinson said the catwalk is not a critical component of the renovations project and did not suspect it would need to be replaced.
Assistant fire chief Harry Brown said when crews (18 trucks) arrived on scene, they found heavy smoke visible. He said they found fire in the catwalk connecting the "Plain 64" building to the Wake Forest research building. Brown said EMS is on scene ensuring fire fighters are taken care of as they continue to work in below-freezing temperatures.
First responders closed nearby streets for several hours, but now they are all open.
The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing. The fire department said it did not want to speculate on the specific cause, but typically, in cases of fires in vacant buildings, the causes range from electrical problems to arson.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Fire crews are battling a fire at the old R.J. Reynolds building in Winston-Salem.
Fire officials say the call came in around 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
The old R.J. Reynolds building is located on the 500 block of E. Fifth Street in Winston-Salem.
Flames were visible coming from the building when crews arrived on scene.
Officials say numerous fire and police units are responding to the fire.
Several streets have been shutdown. They include:
4th Street from Patterson Street to Maple Street and Linden Street and Vine Street
5th Street from Patterson Street and Linden Street
Linden Street between 7th and 4th Streets,
Barricades between Linden Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, 4th Street and Maple Street, 4th Street and Vine Street, and 5th Street and Vine Street.
Police are manning the intersection of 4th Street and Linden street, 4th Street and Patterson Street, 5th Street and Patterson Street, 5th Street and Linden Street, 7th Street and Linden Street.
Streets that are open include Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and 7th Street. Those roads lead directly into downtown Winston-Salem.
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