5-Alarm Fire Rips Through Former KNTV Studio in San Jose

Firefighters battled for hours on Sunday, finally bringing a 5-alarm fire in downtown San Jose under control at KNTV's former news studios.

Arson investigators don't know what sparked the blaze at 3 p.m. at 645 Park Ave, just two blocks from the San Jose Caltrain station. The building had been abandoned for about a decade, though up to 30 homeless people set up camp inside there, firefighters said. Before that, it had been the studios of KNTV.

San Jose Fire Department officials had to call for aid from neighboring cities to battle the fire. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} Firefighters upgraded the fire to a five-alarm blaze Sunday afternoon.

Weary looking firefighters could be seen leaving the scene of the fire around 5 p.m. Two firefighters were injured during the height of this fire. They were released and treated at the scene.

At the height of the fire, flames and thick black smoke could be seen for miles in the South Bay.

Neighbor Jacob Rangel said he ran outside of his apartment and started recording video of the blaze just minutes after the 5-alarm fire started.

"I just saw the whole place flaming up like there’s no way they could stop it," he said. "It’s too late."

"There was one part where there was this pressure that came out of the building, and it just turned into this little tornado and it was rushing toward everyone that was standing on the block," Rangel added. "And they just started moving them because the debris was so sharp. It was like cutting you."

Firefighters said they used the vacant building for training and that a group of transients reportedly live inside the vacant building, apparently even bringing in a generator for electricity. About eight of them were inside when the fire started. Investigators are interviewing some of them for more information.

When firefighters arrived at the site, they went to the back of the building to check for people.

"There were motorcycles in there that were being pulled out," San Jose Fire Capt. Reggie Williams said. "I did see a barbecue grill. It looks like there is a whole elaborate set up within the building."

It took fire crews more than an hour to control the fire.

"This fire was very hot," Williams said. "We could feel the radiant heat from across the street. We had power lines burning. The phone lines were burning. The power poles were burning so we had a lot going on in the first 10 or 15 minutes of this fire."

Crews sprayed 6,000 gallons of water per minute at the height of the fire, and fire officials had to ask the water company to increase the pressure.

Despite the smoke, a number of people showed up at the scene to watch firefighters in action. Many tweeted photos of the fire.

Investigators said they plan on doing a thorough check of the burned-out building as soon as it is safe.

Prior to KNTV moving into the building, it was the location of a bakery. KNTV occupied the building starting in 1955. The building was sold after KNTV moved out of it in 2004 and it has remained vacant since then.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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