Multiple fire units were sent out to the abandoned Ambassador Hotel on Thursday by the Amarillo Fire Department (AFD), with numerous callers reporting black smoke coming from the roof of the former hotel. One of the responders was an off-duty firefighter who noticed the fire off Interstate 40 and Georgia Street.
Opportunely, one of the firefighters responding had keys to the gates and the property, due to an agreement to use the building for training by the city fire department. With the keys, the department could expedite its access to the property. The fire was classified as a three-alarm fire, with about 14 department vehicles and 42 firefighters on site.
Related:Amarillo crews put out 2nd fire at vacant house at Westlawn and South Virginia; possible arson
AFD officials stated that the fire began on the third or fourth floor, and the crews’ swift actions were able to suppress the fire. Smoke was still coming from the upper floor as crews worked around the scene.
An AFD news release stated the building has been vacant for about five years in a news release sent out later in the afternoon: “The first arriving unit found heavy fire coming from a fourth floor window in the atrium area on the backside of the ten story building. Fire crews made entry into the building and set up a blitz-fire (a large caliber hose appliance capable of flowing 500 Gallons Per Minute) to knock down the fire from the atrium area. Firefighters went upstairs and performed search and rescue operations room by room on each floor and checked for extension. The fire was mostly contained to one hotel room and extended to the exterior wall where it was extinguished from an aerial ladder. Several floors were filled with smoke and firefighters had to ventilate all the upper floors.”
Officials had no information to provide on the cause of the fire at this time, and fire marshals were in the process of investigating the fire.
Previously:Amarillo Fire Department responds to weekend fires
‘We as a city need to do a better job’ of securing property, Amarillo fire chief says
The city is experiencing a heavy increase in fires overall, especially in abandoned buildings that property owners are not securing.
Amarillo Fire Chief Jason Mays spoke about the rash of fires his department has had to fight coming out of abandoned buildings.
“We as a city will have to take some measures to ensure that property owners do a better job of securing their property,” Mays said. “I will not wait until one of my guys gets hurt or killed due to the increased number of fires from unmaintained buildings. We as a city need to do a better job of making sure owners are securing their properties and enforcing it.”
Mays said that about half of his department calls are due to fires in abandoned buildings.
Jeff Justus, public information officer for AFD, said that more needs to be done to secure abandoned property.
“It’s not enough to just board it up and put a fence around it; the owners of these buildings will have to do more to keep their building secure,” Justus said. “It is getting out of hand.”
When asked what the community could do to help prevent more of these fires, Justus said that people should report any suspicious activity on these sites.
“We are asking people to be alert; if people see individuals trespassing on vacant property, report it to the authorities,” Justus said. “We cannot afford to lose a firefighter over an abandoned building.”