Tenants assess the damage after Williams Street fire

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Fire investigators are still trying to find a cause for a 3-alarm fire downtown on Thanksgiving night.

The initial call came in just after 5 pm on Thursday evening and it turned into a 3 alarm fire at 1511 Williams Street.

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Carl Williamson watched the firefighters battle the flames last night. He’s visiting Chattanooga from Fort Lauderdale where he is a firefighter. He said, “When we got here, there was probably 12 or 13 fire trucks with the battalion chief trucks and all that, and the fire was all the way through the roof. Probably had 4 or 5 arrow trucks shooting all their waters inside.”

He brought his family back today after seeing the smoke and flames last night.

“I was telling my wife last night, this is the biggest thing we’ve seen. The thing was huge – a huge fire,” he added.

Several tenants in the building were local artists.

“As I understand, the entire second floor roof collapsed and the -the bottom floor, the first floor is covered in water, water damage things like that. But we can’t go in yet. We don’t know what the cause is yet,” says Adam Kirby with Adam Kirby Studios.

Hannah Hahn is another local artist who had her studio in the building. She also worked with the non-profit in the building. “It was my workplace, it was my studio as well… This is where I worked, it was the only space I really had so yeah – it’s hard to lose your family,” says Hahn.

Kirby added, “I was thinking about what to be thankful for that day, and then this fire happened and then after, I saw all this support. I was really thankful for that – that so many people seemed to care. ”

Art120 – a non-profit that provides educational opportunities for youth – was also in that building.

Kathryn Warren is the Founder and Executive Director of Art120. She says, “Some of the warehouse space that we have didn’t get touched by the fire but in some places the water is knee deep. And then the offices – my office is completely destroyed. And that’s where the computer lab and my – and my – and my graphic design and print shop was.”

These artists are staying positive – and want to turn what they’ve lost into art.

Kirby said, “I’d like to make artwork about this and about the tenants there. And show the sentimental value of the objects that were inside. And I’m actually considering doing drawings out of the actual burnt rubble.”

Warren added, “We’ve already had a lot of support – hugs, prayers, and all that great stuff.”

Chattanooga Fire says the fire is still under investigation and no dollar loss estimation is available at this time.