Fire crews in Horsham have contained a three-alarm fire on Blair Mill and Briarwood roads, and are working to put it out completely.
The fire, which broke out 1:43 p.m. Sunday, was brought under control at 3:30 p.m., according to Horsham Fire Co. Chief Tim Flanagan. The blaze started as a brush fire in front of the leasing office at the Blair Mill Apartments, 298 Blair Mill Road and quickly spread to the building, which contained seven offices, three of which were unoccupied, according to officials.
"Wind was a significant factor," Flanagan said, adding that it moved to the soffets and "within minutes the roof was on fire."
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People were in the building when the fire began, but were able to evacuate without injury, Flanagan said.
There were no civilian or firefighter injuries, Flanagan said. About 20 residents of neighboring units were evacuated because of heavy smoke, according to Flanagan. The apartment complex's management company put the occupants up in the Blair Mill Inn. Just before 5 p.m. Sunday, Flanagan said they would be returning home soon.
Flanagan said it was "too early to tell" if mulch caught fire and spread, or if it had been intentionally set. Horsham Fire Marshal George Fida was still investigating the fire's cause Sunday evening, according to Flanagan.
"I'm not surprised at all," Flanagan said about how fast the fire spread. "One bush gets to another. Something did ignite."
The Fire Police said they have closed "all streets in the immediate vicinity" of the fire as well as between Moreland Avenue and Horsham Road and Blair Mill Road up to Village Mall. Flanagan said he hoped to have most of the roads reopened by 6 p.m. Sunday.
Flanagan said firefighters would continue working throughout the evening to put out hot spots in the building, which more than three hours after the fire began, was still smoldering. An excavator would be coming sometime Sunday to take down the building, which, according to Flanagan, was totally destroyed.
The leasing building also contained medical offices, and is about four blocks from the Village Mall.
"The smoke is unbelievable," David Bradford, who lives at the apartment complex, told Patch on Twitter.
In all, 17 fire companies responded, according to Flanagan. Crews from surrounding areas, including Hatboro, Roslyn, Abington, Fort Washington, Huntingdon Valley, Berwyn, Colmar, Willow Grove and Wissahickon, among others, worked to battle the fire.