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Fire guts basement on Main Street

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Fire gutted the basement of a Main Street building Sunday, spewing clouds of smoke over downtown Salt Lake City.

Employees at nearby businesses reported heavy smoke coming from the Catholic Center and other vacant storefronts at 222-230 S. Main at 1:22 p.m. When firefighters arrived, they found the basement engulfed in flames and called in a second alarm."Basement fires are one of the worst to deal with because of the confined area and because the only way in is through the heat and smoke," said Fire Capt. Devin Villa.

Making Sunday's fire even more dangerous was its location in an older, subdivided two-story building sandwiched between other similar structures in the city's central business district.

However, Villa said, firefighters managed to confine the fire to the basement with a "quick and aggressive" interior attack. More than 40 firefighters were dispatched to the blaze and had it under control in 45 minutes.

Firefighters used their new thermal-imaging equipment to detect hot spots inside the basement walls and ceiling, which allowed them to stop the fire from spreading up into the main and second-story levels.

Only one of the four storefronts in the building was occupied - by Clicks Copy Shop - and it sustained only minor smoke damage. Villa said investigators were told the building is scheduled for demolition soon, so there was no dollar value placed on the damage. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Main Street between 200 South and 300 South was closed to all traffic, including pedestrians, for more than an hour. But because most downtown businesses are closed Sunday, the road closure caused little inconvenience.