A large fire has broken out in downtown Canton this afternoon. Flames and thick black smoke can be seen coming from the roof of a building on Main Street near the courthouse. Firefighters from multiple departments have responded and are working to contain the blaze.
What building is affected?
The building on fire is the old Merchants Bank building at 120 Main Street. The historic 5-story structure was built in the 1920s and has been vacant for over a decade. The fire appears to have started on one of the upper floors before spreading rapidly to the rest of the building.
What caused the fire?
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. However, officials believe the blaze may have started accidentally inside the vacant building. Due to the building’s deteriorated state and lack of fire detection systems, the fire was likely able to spread quickly before being noticed and reported.
What is the current status?
As of 2 PM, firefighters are still working to get the 3-alarm fire under control. All floors of the building are currently involved in flames. A portion of Main Street has been closed near the scene and evacuations of nearby buildings are underway as a precaution.
At least 50 firefighters from Canton and neighboring departments are actively fighting the fire. Aerial ladders have been deployed and crews are spraying water onto the burning structure from all sides. The sound of breaking glass can be heard as intense heat causes windows to shatter.
In addition to multiple engine companies spraying water and foam, Truck 1 from the Canton Fire Department has been called in to ventilation and search duties. The truck’s tall aerial ladder is being used to break upper floor windows to release heat and smoke.
An additional ladder truck and rescue squad have also been dispatched in case firefighters become trapped or injured within the huge, burning building.
Main Street is completely closed between 1st and 2nd Avenues near the fire scene. Police have set up roadblocks to keep vehicles and pedestrians away from the area. 2nd Avenue is closed at Main Street as well.
The following intersections are closed:
- Main Street & 1st Avenue
- Main Street & 2nd Avenue
Motorists are advised to avoid downtown Canton if possible. Those who need to travel through are asked to expect delays and follow posted detours around the fire area.
Is anyone hurt?
At this time, no civilians or firefighters are known to be injured. The building was unoccupied when the fire broke out. Fire crews will be checking the upper floors for victims once the heavy fire conditions have subsided.
One firefighter was evaluated for heat exhaustion but has been cleared to return to work. Ambulances are standing by at the scene as a precaution if any medical emergencies arise.
What will happen to the building?
Given the extensive damage being caused by this devastating blaze, the building will likely have to be demolished. Once the fire is extinguished, the structure will be extremely unstable and pose a collapse hazard.
City building inspectors and engineers will need to carefully assess the integrity of the remains before demolition can begin. The debris will then need to be safely removed in a controlled manner.
How will this impact downtown?
This large building fire will definitely cause disruption to the downtown Canton area. The following impacts are likely:
- Ongoing street closures and traffic delays for 1-2 days
- No pedestrian access on sections of Main Street near the fire scene
- Possible evacuation and closure of other nearby buildings
- Disruption of utility services (power, water, etc)
- Clean up and removal of fire debris
In addition, the loss of the prominent historical building will leave a vacant lot on a major downtown block. City officials and community members will need to determine how to redevelop the property.
How can the public stay informed?
For ongoing updates on the fire status, road closures, and other impacts, community members can:
- Follow local media outlets (TV, newspaper, radio)
- Monitor the City of Canton’s social media accounts
- Sign up for emergency text alerts through the county dispatch center
- Call the City’s non-emergency number at 555-1234
The City will also be communicating through press conferences and releasing statements as significant updates become available.
The devastating building fire in downtown Canton serves as a reminder of the dangers of vacant structures. The cause remains under investigation but the rapid spread indicates the extreme risk posed by unoccupied properties not maintained with working fire systems.
While the damage is tragic, firefighters deserve great credit for their heroic actions preventing the blaze from spreading to neighboring buildings. The community is fortunate there were no injuries.
In the coming days, we will learn more about what and how this happened. For now, the City’s focus remains on the emergency response and working to minimize impacts to downtown residents and businesses.