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Eight-alarm fire guts South Boston building

No injuries reported from blaze on Summer Street

The century-old commercial building near Fort Point Channel began to burn before dawn Tuesday, triggering a rare eight alarms by the Boston Fire Department and drawing a small army of firefighters to a neighborhood designated four years ago as a landmark district.

The fire gutted the ornate Summer Street building, which was empty and undergoing renovations. There were no injuries. Fire officials estimated the damage at about $2 million, but they said the building should be able to remain standing. They were investigating the cause and declined to comment about what may have started it.

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“My best estimate is that the developers will be able to continue the renovation,” said Steve MacDonald, a spokesman for the Fire Department.

He said it took about 150 firefighters nearly nine hours to douse the blaze at 327-333 Summer St., where the first flames were reported at 4:29 a.m. and the final embers were extinguished around 1 p.m.

The fire attracted gawkers from around the area as plumes of thick gray smoke billowed out of the broken windows on the front of the five-story building and over the emerging skyline of new buildings along the waterfront in South Boston. A section of Summer Street was blocked off to keep spectators clear of the area. The intense fire quickly enveloped the building’s upper floors, leading the department to withdraw firefighters from its interior.

For the next several hours, firefighters used deck guns and hoses from ladder trucks to spray water through the windows and onto the flames, the department said. The fire burned through old wooden beams inside the structure.

A cleaning crew that was in the building had fled without any injuries, MacDonald said.

In the afternoon, a private structural engineer determined there was no threat of collapse of the building, allowing city officials to reopen Summer Street by 3 p.m. Firefighters remained on the scene into the evening to ensure no hot spots emerged.

The yellow-brick building, which was built in 1911 in the classical revival style of the era, was among a cluster of buildings in the neighborhood that were part of the old Wool Row, in its heyday an international hub of trade for wool produced in Lowell, and designated a historic landmark district in 2009.

“It’s a huge loss, because this building was a gem,” said Steve Hollinger, a resident of the Fort Point district who served on a local committee that sought the landmark status.

Officials at the Boston Redevelopment Authority said Boston-based Synergy Investments and partner DivcoWest were renovating the 46,000 square-foot building into offices. They were planning to combine it with the building at 337-347 Summer St.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com or on Twitter @davabel; John R. Ellement at ellement@globe.com or on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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