Firefighters rescue people living in abandoned homeless shelter before it goes up in flames, officials say

Firefighters said one person was rescued from the second floor of the building and transported to a local hospital in fair condition.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando firefighters spent hours Wednesday morning battling a fire at a former homeless shelter in downtown Orlando.

Heavy smoke billowed and two fires, one inside and one on the perimeter, came from the building on West Central Boulevard in Parramore, according to fire officials.

Firefighters said the fire had Central Avenue closed between South Division Avenue and North Hughey Avenue. They said the damage to the building, which was set to be torn down, is likely to force it to be condemned.

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Firefighters said they were called to the building, which formerly served as the Orlando Union Rescue Mission’s Men’s Home, around 6:15 a.m. after reports of smoke. They said they put out the fire and pulled a few people out of the building -- which is abandoned -- who were seeking refuge from the cold.

Around 8:45 a.m., firefighters said they were called back to the same building for another fire and again pulled a handful of people out of the building. They said at least two were treated for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters said one person was rescued from the second floor of the building and transported to a local hospital in fair condition. They said two or three others found inside the building were turned over to Orlando police as the investigation into the fire continues.

According to the the Orlando Union Rescue Mission website, they sold the building at 410 W. Central Blvd. to the Orlando Magic in December 2013. After 50 years in the building, they moved into a new facility in August.

“It’s incredibly sad that it ends like this,” said Freddy Clayton, president of the Orlando Union Rescue Mission.

Squatters were believed to be living in the building at the time of the fire, according to officials.

He said he wanted to remind homeless people of their options, including the Coalition for the Homeless and the Salvation Army. He said no one is turned away in short-term emergency situations.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.