A Downtown flamenco studio and conservatory are both “total losses” after a blaze erupted Wednesday afternoon, sending massive plumes of smoke throughout the city and shooting flames as high as 40 feet.
Firefighters and spectators gathered around the 200 block of Gold SW and flames could be seen leaping from the National Institute of Flamenco building. Both the dance studio at 212 Gold Ave. and the conservatory next door were lost in the blaze, an Albuquerque Fire Department spokeswoman said, after the roof collapsed and the building was engulfed in flames.
Two fire department cranes lifted above the building and doused it with water, sending smoke throughout Downtown. Flames shot as high as 40 feet, and a smoke plume could be seen from all over the city, when firefighters arrived around 4:25 p.m.
Firefighters who entered the business to find the origin of the fire were ordered out because the roof was near collapse. Once firefighters exited and began to fight the blaze from the outside, the roof of the studio caved in, according to the AFD spokeswoman.
No injuries were reported and the fire’s cause is under investigation.
Eva Encinias Sandoval, the institute’s founder, told KOAT-TV that she and a co-worker were finishing up some end-of-semester office work when they smelled smoke. They rushed out to see smoke rising from the rooftop.
“We just got everybody out of the building as soon as we could,” she told the news station. “And by the time we got out, the roof was just on fire. It’s incredible how quickly it spread.”
Encinias Sandoval said she’s very grateful that no students were in the building at the time, but she’s deeply saddened that the center, a national landmark for flamenco, is no more.
“It’s just been a very, very frightening experience,” she told KOAT-TV. “I’m just so glad we didn’t have students in the building, but everything that we have as an organization for our various programs is all in that building.”
Directors at the National Institute of Flamenco also posted on Facebook to acknowledge the loss of their conservatory, drawing dozens of well-wishes from fans of the institute.
“Everyone who was in the building is safe and sound, but unfortunately our beautiful Conservatory is gone,” the post reads. “Thank you everyone for the kind regards and offers of help. We’ll be figuring things out in the next few days, and will keep you updated. Thank you for all the love.”
The AFD spokeswoman said firefighters were expected to stay at the scene all night in case another fire breaks out.
Patti Harrell Hoech, owner of an art gallery next door to the National Institute of Flamenco, said she was with her bookkeeper when a group of men ran up and told her to leave because the building next door was on fire.
She described how what appeared to be a small fire erupted and continued to grow, with the color of the smoke alternating from white to gray to black.
“We just watched it escalate and the smoke was gathering. Then, it just became this huge plume of white and gray and black,” she said. “It just made this whole place look like this theatrical inferno.”
Harrell Hoech said a firewall between her gallery and the flamenco institute prevented the blaze from consuming the entire block. But fire officials told her to expect a hole in her ceiling in addition to smoke damage where firefighters had collapsed the roof to get better access to the blaze.
The gallery owner said she began to cry as she saw flames erupt from the building.
“It just seems surreal,” she said.
Around 5:30 p.m., the blaze appeared to be under control, despite heavy amounts of smoke visible.
AFD Chief James Breen later said firefighters were doing a good job by using a firewall between the studio and the gallery, called Patrician Design, as a line of defense. Breen said utilities and electricity were quickly turned off, and that firefighters pulled the ceiling in the gallery to observe the fire and prevent it from spreading to the businesses next door.