AUSTIN (KXAN) — An electrical fire is to blame for burning a historic building at 502 East Sixth St. downtown Thursday morning. It started around 4:15 a.m. and spread between floors above the Lone Star Food Mart, next to Palm Door at Sixth and Neches streets. A street sweeper and another 911 caller reported seeing smoke coming from the building.
Firefighters knocked down the flames quickly, but not before they caused significant damage to the first floor of the building. Battalion Chief Palmer Buck said the second floor appeared to be unused.
“The challenge here was simply an older building with a lot of void spaces that’s been remodeled so many times,” said Buck. “You have to work and open up the walls, get into the ceiling and make sure all the fire’s stopped because we did have a significant fire here.”
The building, which is one of the original buildings on Sixth Street, did not have any fire alarms or a sprinkler system. It’s a scenario with which downtown firefighters are very familiar.
“When the buildings are built, when the permits are pulled, that’s the fire code that they’re built under,” said Buck. “So the older the building, the less fire protection systems you’re going to have — be it firewalls, rated door assemblys, etc. The Fire Prevention Bureau has been good — when buildings do significant remodeling, then they have to come up to the code that’s in place at that time. Certainly, when it comes to nightclubs and things like that, we’re a little more able to do some enforcement. But again, the older buildings, you know going in they’re not going to have the same fire protection features.”
Fire investigators estimate the fire caused $450,000 worth of damage.