- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Flames and smoke from a fire engulfing an apartment building under construction in downtown Salt Lake City could be seen for miles, but it was almost completely extinguished Sunday night, the Fire Department said.

The blaze at 550 E. 500 South was under control but not completely out, Salt Lake City Fire Department spokesman Jasen Asay told The Associated Press. No one was inside the 40-foot-tall building, and no one was hurt.

Flames shot high in the air and winds flung embers, Asay said, prompting several 911 calls starting at 6 p.m. A Smith’s grocery store and parking lot across the street and several nearby structures, including residential buildings, were evacuated as a precaution, he said. Some people have returned, and most should be able to get back in Sunday night, Asay added.

The spokesman estimated that more than 100 onlookers gathered to watch the dramatic flames, prompting the closure of areas surrounding the building for safety.

Sarah Preston was standing more than a half-block away.

“You could just feel the heat,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/1eM0ylc ).

Another onlooker, Kitti Smit, told the newspaper: “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

A cause of the fire was not yet known. Asay says he talked to the construction company, which he did not name, and said no work was being done Sunday, no utilities have been hooked up and there was no heating source.

The Fire Department did a walkthrough of the building on Saturday as it continued to monitor the progress of construction, Asay said, adding that it was in compliance. Investigators were interviewing witnesses and the company.

Exposed wood at the under-construction building allowed the fire to grow quickly, so crews pulled out and battled it from the outside over fears the structure would collapse, Asay said. About 60 firefighters responded. They worked to keep flames away from a large crane they feared would topple if it got too hot, Asay said.

A crew will monitor the scene overnight to ensure the fire doesn’t rekindle, he said.