COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia Fire crews say the historic Babcock Building in downtown Columbia is essentially destroyed after a massive fire broke out at the iconic building Saturday morning.
Columbia Fire officials said the call came in around 6:30 Saturday morning for the structure, located on Bull Street. When crews arrived they found flames coming out of the basement. It was considered a three alarm fire, and over 60 firefighters and law enforcement responded.
Video taken at the time of the fire showed heavy flames coming from the building. One of those recordings those recordings showed the large iconic dome and cupola on the top of the building collapse, falling down into the building.
According to Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins, two firefighters have suffered injuries while battling the blaze. One received care on scene and the other was transported with non life-threatening injuries. They were both injured by embers as the building collapsed.
Raw video shows moment dome collapsed at the Babcock Building
Jenkins said his crews have not been able to go in because the building is mostly wood inside, and much of the structure has come down. Jenkins said they may have to knock down some walls to complete douse the fire.
It is not clear at this time how the fire started.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the building is one of the most historic in the state and is an example of Italian Renaissance architecture.
"It's a massive loss, for the people of not just Columbia but also South Caroina and American history," Benjamin said.
Fire destroys Babcock Building in Columbia
According to Columbia Fire, they will be heading the investigation into what started the fire, along with Columbia Police, SLED, and ATF.
This is not the first time the currently abandoned building's had a fire. In December of 2018, a blaze caused damage to the structure. However, crews said at the time the building was salvageable.
The Babcock Building sits on the BullStreet development, a 250 acre site in downtown Columbia that was once the site of the state mental health hospital.
It was set to be turned into a set of luxury apartments. Earlier this year, Virginia based historic renovation specialist Clachan Properties took ownership of the property. Clachan planned to turn the 254,022 square foot building into a 208 unit apartment building. It will feature one, two and three bedroom units and include a pool, dog park, and exercise facility.
The Babcock Building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a part of the city's downtown since 1857. At its peak, it once housed nearly 400 mental patients. All of the patients were removed in 1990, and it later closed for good in 1996.
"The developers were doing a great job of trying to turn something that maybe had been a sad story for so many for over 100 years into a great story for the entire community," Benjamin said.
This is a developing story, continue to check this story for updates when more information becomes available.