Fires at vacant buildings in Midtown Atlanta and Peoplestown prompted large responses on the coldest night so far this season.

The blaze Monday evening on 12th Street sent thick smoke over several Midtown blocks and caused power outages for thousands of residents. Crews with Atlanta fire battled the two-alarm blaze for several hours overnight, only to be called to a second fire Tuesday morning at an empty warehouse on University Avenue.

People seeking warmth were suspected to be the cause of both fires, although both remain under investigation, according to fire officials. Overnight, Atlanta dipped into the 40s, the lowest temperatures recorded in the city in the past six months. Wind blowing from the northwest made it feel more like the 20s and 30s outside.

“Everybody starts trying to move inside that doesn’t have a place to go, using heat sources that they probably shouldn’t be using, and things like this happen,” fire Capt. Jared Purinton said from outside the charred warehouse. “With the cold weather moving in, there is a possibility we could see this more often here in the next few days.”

Credit: John Spink /

Credit: John Spink /

The fire broke out in Midtown at about 8:30 p.m. Monday. When crews responded to the corner of 12th Street and Peachtree Walk, they found heavy fire in the middle of an empty three-story apartment building, Capt. Chris Slatton told reporters from the scene.

Massive flames proved too intense for firefighters to attack from the inside, and they moved into a defensive operation on the exterior, he said.

A second company was called in, and the roof partially collapsed before the fire was fully extinguished. Stability concerns prevented investigators from going inside early Tuesday to determine the cause.

“Most likely it would probably be vagrants that have occupied the building and possibly started the fire. Just an assumption because there is no power to the building,” Slatton said.

No one was reported injured.

Large plumes of smoke could be seen billowing over Midtown as the fire raged Monday night. A nearby restaurant was evacuated as a precaution, but Slatton said the property was not in any danger of going up in flames.

More than 2,000 residents in Midtown experienced power outages for about an hour after Georgia Power was asked by Atlanta fire to cut power in the area to aid their efforts, spokesman for the utility John Kraft said.

Crews were still monitoring hot spots Tuesday morning when the fire department got the call about a fire six miles to the south. Firefighters with battalion 1 responded to the warehouse, located on an industrial stretch of University Avenue between Pryor Road and McDonough Boulevard, at about 6:30 a.m.

Like in Midtown, the crews were pulled back to a defensive position when flames began to spread. No one was found inside once the majority of the fire was contained, Purinton said.

“With the temperatures dropping, we had a chance we might find somebody in there,” he said. “Crews attempted to get inside as quick as they (could).”

Investigators were able to begin initial surveys of the damage Tuesday, he said. An official cause has not been determined.

Temperatures were expected to fall even further Tuesday night. The National Weather Service scheduled freeze warnings to go into effect at midnight for all of North Georgia.

A hard freeze is not expected in town, but outside the Perimeter temperatures could drop into the low 30s, according to the latest forecast. Atlanta’s projected low is a brisk 35 degrees.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.