No injuries reported in blaze that engulfed downtown Lincoln strip mall

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LINCOLN, Nebraska — Lincoln fire officials say a roofing crew caused a fire that broke out at a downtown strip mall.

According to city Fire Investigator Rick Campos, construction workers were using a blow torch on gutters above a hookah lounge when combustible material transferred to the roof and set it on fire. Campos estimates the damage to be worth between $1.5 million and $2 million.

Authorities said everyone escaped the Monday blaze uninjured before flames gutted most of the building that is valued at $635,000. One firefighter and a dog managed to escape a partial collapse of the roof.

"They pulled out 30 seconds before the collapse," Lincoln Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Murrell said.

According to Murrell, the collapse forced firefighters into a defensive mode for a time as they sought options to get water into areas of the building that still contained flames.

The Lincoln Journal Star ( ) says thick, black and brown smoke spilled across part of the downtown area as crowds gathered to watch firefighters on ladders and on the ground battle the three-alarm fire. Reserve crews were called in to help fight the blaze, which authorities say damaged neighboring businesses.

Guillermo Haro, who owns an ethnic grocery store and restaurant, watched as flames tore through the strip mall his business has called home for more than 15 years.

"Not good," said Haro. "Lot of years here."

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