DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A massive fire gutted the historic former Ambassador Hotel in Dallas early Tuesday morning.
The fire broke out at 1:30 a.m and early 10 hours later firefighters remained on scene, pouring water on the remains of the 6-story structure.
Dallas Fire Rescue spokesperson Jason Evans tells CBS 11 News it’s still not safe for investigators to get close enough to the building to begin digging around for physical evidence of the fire’s cause.
With so much destruction, Evans says they may never know how it started.
At the height of the fire, flames were visible for miles away and smoke wrapped around downtown Dallas.
“You could feel the heat from the fire,” said Jerry Peppers. “The structure fire, I mean it was just crazy.” Peppers was driving down Interstate-30, on the way home to Fort Worth from the long holiday weekend, when his dash camera caught video of the glow of the fire.
“Fireballs were shooting across the highway. We were able to feel the heat with our windows up from in our vehicle,” he said.
Up close, more than 100 Dallas firefighters poured water on to the building. The center of the hotel quickly collapsed inward, making it impossible for crews to search inside.
“Command ordered everyone to pull back. It was clearly gonna be a defensive effort from the onset,” said Evans.
Investigators from Dallas Fire Rescue interviewed a security guard who was staying in a trailer next to the property. They say the guard didn’t see anyone hanging around the property overnight.
As it stands, first responders don’t believe anyone was inside the building when the 4-alarm fire broke out.
The Ambassador Hotel first opened as The Majestic Hotel in 1905. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson stay there while visiting Dallas.
Vacant for years, a developer was on the brink of breathing new life into the property as a mixed use of space.
“The city was looking forward to it, the neighborhood was and we were too,” said Jim Lake, the part owner of the Texas landmark in the 1300 block of South Ervay Street.
“This was probably the most complex redevelopment project I’ve ever worked on, but we thought it was so important for the city, with the history it had behind it… built in 1904,” Lake said.
Lake hopes some bricks or material can be repurposed, but he acknowledges it will never be the same. “It’s a huge disappointment,” he said. “You can’t recreate this.”