Swirls of smoke ascended above the brick warehouse Sunday afternoon on Terre Haute’s near east side, even after firefighters had doused the structure with water into midmorning hours.

City firefighters worked 14 hours to extinguish the fire that began Saturday night in an empty warehouse at 10th and Chestnut streets, said Jeff Fisher, public information officer with the city fire department. The warehouse that covers an entire block was a total loss, he said. The building is owned by Justin Woodruff of Terre Haute but no one answered repeated phone calls to a number listed in Woodruff’s name.

The fire department received the call at 7:31 and fire trucks were at the scene within three minutes, Fisher said.

The building had electricity but not natural gas, he said. Although the warehouse was empty, the structure was supported inside with wood pillars and rafters.

Shortly after the fire department arrived, flames shot through the windows and roof. Once the wind caught the flames, fire quickly spread from the north to the south side of the building, Fisher said.

“The wind was terrible,” he said.

Because of the fire’s magnitude, every city fire station responded. Honey Creek, Otter Creek, Sugar Creek and Riley fire departments manned city stations in the event of another emergency. The CSX train line crossing Chestnut Street was shut down and nearby streets were closed to traffic Saturday, Fisher said.

“It was the biggest fire I’ve seen in 15 years,” he said.

Nearby residences were never in danger, he said.

On Sunday, the fire department blocked off a street on the east side of the building while firefighters came back with an aerial truck to cool down smoldering spots.

The south and west walls were unstable and in danger of collapsing, Fisher said. While the steady stream of water sprayed, bricks on the outside wall tumbled to the ground.

Curious onlookers walked or drove by the building Sunday to see the damage. Many stopped to take pictures of the charred brick or the ice crystals that formed on the trees next to the west side of the building.

Indiana State University student Justin Turner was one who stopped on Chestnut Street. The night before, he had walked near the scene and watched the blaze about two hours.

“It looked like the firefighters had it under control and I was about ready to go,” he said. “Then the flames went out of the window and up the roof.”

Fisher did not know the damage estimate or if Woodruff had insurance for the building. The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office was at the scene Saturday night and will investigate the fire, Fisher said. He would not say if arson was suspected.

Joanne Hammer can be reached at (812) 231-4214 or joanne.hammer@tribstar.com.