SAN ANTONIO - A huge fire late Tuesday night has fire investigators asking two major questions this morning:
How did the fire start and are there any deaths connected to the blaze?
The home on the west side of downtown San Antonio nearly burned to the ground.
According to investigators at the scene, the house in the 2600 block of West Houston Street is abandoned and known for having squatters. Because of that information, investigators will run a search of the grounds to make sure no one was killed.
Around 10 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters arrived at the home being consumed by fire. They were forced to fight the fire defensively.
"When firefighters arrived, the house was fully involved and there was some pretty intense heat. In fact, they said they could feel the heat from the engine," said Woody Woodward, Spokesman for the San Antonio Fire Department.
Edward Ferguson walked outside just before 10 o'clock last night to find the home across North Chupaderas Street on fire.
"It was in full flames, I mean the flames were shooting upwards," said Ferguson.
He called 911.
"I said, 'You gotta get someone out here!'" Ferguson told the 911 operator. "It's a full-fledged fire!'"
Cadaver dogs ultimately gave the all-clear; No one was left inside the burning house.
The residence was already under investigation for illegal activity generally connected to vacant homes.
The abandoned home was designated as a historic landmark just three years ago, but since then, neighbors say it was a magnet for crime.
"A lot of homeless people staying here breaking in through the windows, drinking, doing drugs, fighting, stabbings. They were whistling at kids," said neighbor, Marie Martinez.
We're told the landowner was due in court yesterday over the property.
"All of a sudden, everything starts coming up about the house and then it's just burnt," said Martinez. "From one day to the next."
San Antonio City Councilman Robert Trevino met with concerned neighbors to figure out a solution.
"[To try and] salvage this home, to make sure there was some effort to help protect this beautiful structure," said Trevino.
Ironically, Trevino was scheduled for a tour of the home Wednesday afternoon.
He's now working with code enforcement to do an emergency demolition once arson investigators figure out what caused the fire.
"We'll work with its location, with the fabric of the neighborhood and see what we can do to help restore that sight," said Trevino. "We look forward to taking some positive steps after such a tragedy."
To help deter crime from the corner of West Houston and Chupaderas Street, Trevino also plans to trim bushes surrounding the property, and install a light looking down the alley behind the burned house.
In the meantime, crews set up a fence around the building to keep everyone out for their own safety.
No firefighters were injured while putting the fire out and a truck remained on the scene Wednesday morning doing a fire watch.
Arson investigators are currently at work trying to pinpoint the cause of the fire. Fire officials say it could take days to learn the answer.