A two-alarm fire broke out Wednesday afternoon at a downtown Modesto office building, forcing the evacuation of about 20 employees and shutting down a portion of 13th Street.
No injuries were reported. The fire occurred shortly before 1:30 p.m. at the 13th Street Place office building, between K and L streets.
Fire investigator Ken White said the fire was started accidentally when a roofing crew was using a torch to heat up roofing material being installed there.
He said the crew tried to put out the fire with extinguishers, but the blaze got away from them.
Employees first reported smelling smoke coming from the walls and the roof. The employees were evacuating the building as the first firefighters arrived.
Firefighters had the fire under control in about 20 minutes, said Modesto Fire Battalion Chief Terry Inderbitzen. He said he called for a second alarm to have more firefighters available in case the fire got out of control.
Five engines, two trucks and 21 firefighters responded to the scene. The fire did not threaten any nearby buildings.
He said the fire damage was limited to a portion of the roof and a room on the building's second floor. Firefighters were able to salvage most of the businesses' equipment, mainly computers, on the first floor.
Among the companies listed on the building's facade are MassMutual Financial Group, Mraz, Amerine and Associates, Sentinel Rock, Benchmark, Global Discoveries and The Management Alternative.
John Habermehl, who works in one of his company's three second-floor offices at MassMutual, wasn't aware of anything wrong until someone else in the building told him to get out.
"As soon as I walked out of my office, I could smell the smoke," he said.
Habermehl said all he had time for was to get his employees out and grab his laptop, day planner and briefcase.
Bee Online Editor Brian Clark contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.