Firefighters battle massive building fire in downtown St. Joseph - KCTV5

Firefighters battle massive building fire in downtown St. Joseph

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A massive amount of black smoke is billowing in the skies of St. Joseph after a fire. (Chopper5) A massive amount of black smoke is billowing in the skies of St. Joseph after a fire. (Chopper5)
ST. JOSEPH, MO (KCTV) -

A downtown St. Joseph building that once housed a nationally-known opera house was heavily damaged by fire.

Firefighters spent most of Monday battling the blaze at the Pioneer Building near Fifth and Francis streets. No injuries were reported. The fire broke out about 10:30 a.m.

The building, which was currently vacant, was built in 1872. It was once known as the Tootle Opera House, which was known as the finest theater west of Chicago when it opened.

Part of the multi-story building's walls collapsed and a nearby office was evacuated as the fire filled downtown with smoke.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

"The fire also extended to a building across the alley from it," said Mike Neylon of the St. Joseph Fire Department. "As far as we know, that's the extent of chasing the fire confined to one large building and it's probably going to wind up caving in completely on itself before it's all said and done."

Firefighters evacuated the nearby Montee Law Firm.

Crews worried portions of the building could collapse or the fire could spread. The employees smelled the thick smoke and stepped outside to see flames. They aren't sure if their building is damaged or not because they were asked to leave and haven't been able to go back.

"I thought it was obvious they wouldn't be able to contain the fire," said James Montee of Montee Law Firm. "The inside looked like it was built with a lot of wood."

Other businesses in the are wanted to help the firefighters who fought the fire. 

The local St. Joseph Hy-Vee brought Gatorade and sandwiches to the firefighters. 

Copyright 2016 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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