A fire that broke out late yesterday afternoon at London’s old McCormick building is being treated as a suspected arson.

Officials with the London Fire Department say they were contacted around 4:40 p.m. yesterday to reports of a blaze at the abandoned building. District Chief Daryl Stephenson says when they arrived there was heavy black smoke coming from the rear of the building.

He says crews set up their tankers around the structure to try and douse the flames. Stephenson estimates fire fighters were on scene for roughly 10 hours, only leaving the area around 2:30 a.m.

No one was hurt during the blaze, but Stephenson says some residents in the immediate area were evacuated because of smoke wafting into their houses. He says fire crews and London Police moved the residents into LTC buses for a short time.

As for the condition of the Dundas Street property this morning, Stephenson says it looks like a war zone. While there weren’t any belongings inside the building other than some plastic storage bins, flames did manage to make it through parts of the roof.

– Photo courtesy of @Hazzard1122 submitted via Twitter

Stephenson says neighbours in the area told authorities they saw someone running across the building’s roof shortly before the fire started.

He says this certainly isn’t the first time someone has broken into the building. There have been numerous cases of people starting small fires inside the structure that’s been vacant for years.

Stephenson says the Ontario Fire Marshal will be on scene today as the investigation into the blaze continues.

City Councillor Stephen Orser has been pressing the city to do something with the abandoned building for years.

He says the building’s vacancy is costing the city in more ways than one.

“It’s a loss for the City of London in the area of $50,000,000 of investment. It’s a loss of anywhere from 200-350 possible jobs and a great future for that area,” says Orser.

“Now it’s all changed direction because it’s all literally gone up in smoke.”

via AM980 News Talk Radio