The building that housed the recently shuttered Sea Galley restaurant caught fire early Thursday morning, in a blaze which Anchorage firefighters were still battling hours later.

By 4 p.m. Thursday, just four Anchorage Fire Department units of 21 that originally responded were still at the 4101 Credit Union Drive building. AFD officials said the fire had been brought under control, but crews were still locating and extinguishing hot spots.

Anchorage police said roads near the building were set to remain closed until 8 p.m.

"Please use an alternate route if you can," police said in a statement. "Otherwise be prepared for slow-moving and merging traffic."

First responders had arrived by 7 a.m. Thursday, according to AFD deputy operations chief Brian Keene. By late Thursday morning, Keene said the building was unsafe for anyone to enter, with AFD saying the fire would be allowed to burn itself out and urging people to avoid the area if possible.

"Smoke is expected to linger in the area for some time due to the temperatures and lack of wind," AFD officials wrote in a statement. "Those with respiratory conditions near Midtown are advised to use caution when spending time outside if there appears to be smoke in your area."

Staff at the municipal building permits office said the Sea Galley's owners had been issued a demolition permit for structures at the address on Oct. 22. The permit gave them 180 days to conduct the demolition work.

AFD Assistant Chief Alex Boyd said the status of the structure, which was fully legal, complicated efforts to bring the fire under control. The cause of the fire wasn't clear Thursday afternoon.

“Fire protections had been turned off in the building, so our crews weren't able to get inside,” Boyd said. “The fire (was) pretty well established at that point.”

Parts of the roof collapsed during the blaze, according to Boyd. Firefighters had no evidence that anyone was trapped inside the building, but weren’t able to verify Thursday afternoon that it was unoccupied.

“The conditions inside are pretty bad for our crews and can be very dangerous, because we're not sure how long that fire's been burning,” Boyd said. “It was a pretty considerable fire inside before we got here.”

Flames could be seen by passengers on a Ravn flight traveling from Anchorage to Homer.

The former Sea Galley restaurant burns in Midtown Anchorage on Jan. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Jonathan Guerin)
The former Sea Galley restaurant burns in Midtown Anchorage on Jan. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Jonathan Guerin)

An AFD supervisor said that “there are a lot of old memories in that building. It used to be the old Petroleum Club, too.”

The former Sea Galley restaurant burns in Midtown Anchorage on Jan. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Jonathan Guerin)
The former Sea Galley restaurant burns in Midtown Anchorage on Jan. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Jonathan Guerin)

Gagau Enosa, a security guard at an adjacent business, said squatters had frequently broken into the former restaurant. 

“Right after they closed that place down, so many homeless going in there,” Enosa said. “I’ve seen them every day.”

Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included an unconfirmed theory about how the fire started. This has been removed.

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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