SOUTH BEND — An abandoned building next to a downtown soup kitchen caught fire Saturday night, closing a busy street for hours.
The building at 520 S. Michigan Street — the onetime Lithographic Printers, according to a sign on the building — caught fire sometime prior to 7:30 p.m.
That’s when Tony Procopi, who was working next door in the kitchen of Hope Ministries cafeteria, first smelled smoke.
Procopi and the other workers said they went outside to find smoke billowing from the building next door, which abuts against the Hope building.
Procopi said a police officer was already on the scene and told everyone to evacuate from the Hope building. A short time later, fire engines arrived to fight the blaze.
Firefighters used ladder-mounted hoses to fight the blaze, spraying thousands of gallons of water onto the structure. Scanner traffic during the blaze indicated firefighters had initial concern about the building’s roof collapsing. Nearly two hours after firefighters arrived on scene, light smoke could still be seen coming from the building, but the fire appeared largely contained.
Procopi, who lives in a Hope Ministries shelter, said people were known to stay in the abandoned building occasionally, and that the rear of the building had caught fire at least once before.
There were no initial reports of injuries at the fire and no apparent damage to the Hope Ministries building.