Downtown Theatre Fire

Storied downtown theatre catches on fire, turning the lunch hour into a rush of trucks and smoke

Storied downtown theatre catches on fire during the lunch hour rush

2 Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014
Dozens of Houston firefighters and at least 11 units responded to the scene of the fire at the Alley Theatre on Thursday. Photo by Elizabeth Rhodes
5 Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014
Construction workers helping with the Alley Theatre's $46 million renovation were evacuated from the building due to the fire. Photo by Elizabeth Rhodes
1 Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014
By noon, firefighters appeared to have mostly contained the fire, which started at approximately 11 a.m. Photo by Elizabeth Rhodes
Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014
At least 11 HFD units responded to the alarm. Photo by Elizabeth Rhodes
2 Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014
5 Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014
1 Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014
Alley Theatre fire Sept. 11, 2014

A smoky scene greeted downtown lunch-goers with the storied Alley Theatre catching fire early Thursday afternoon. The two-alarm blaze forced the under-renovation building to be evacuated and brought a quick response from blaring fire trucks.

The fire brought more than 20 units from the Houston Fire Department at the scene of Louisiana Street and Texas Avenue.

The fire is believed to have been caused by electrical problems in top-floor air conditioning units, according to KPRC Ch. 2. Construction crew members, the only persons in the building at the time of the incident, were immediately evacuated when a safety official first noticed signs of the fire.

An HFD spokesperson says the fire was first reported at 11:09 a.m. and the first firefighters arrived on the scene at 11:11 a.m. The blaze got upgraded to a two-alarm at 11:22 a.m.

A construction worker tells CultureMap that he saw black clouds of smoke billow from the west side of the building. At the scene, the fire seemed to be mostly contained to that one area by noon. Smoke could be smelled downtown throughout the area.

Texas Avenue between Louisiana and Smith streets has been shut down while firefighters work at the scene. Construction workers lined the opposite side of the street awaiting further instructions.

The ongoing construction at the Alley Theatre is part of a $46.5 million renovation of its 1968 Brutalist building, a process that began July 14. The renovation process is expected to continue through the following summer and to be completed in the fall — in time for the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

The company is performing its shows on the University of Houston campus for now. There is no word yet on how extensive damage is to the upper levels of the theater.

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