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"It’s a very scary thing:" Evacuees still not allowed to return home after blaze

Residents in the 1800 block of Emerson Street are not allowed access to their buildings due to the fire and ensuing investigation, according to emergency management.

A major fire at a construction site near downtown Denver Wednesday afternoon forced firefighters to evacuate an entire block in North Capitol Hill.

An evacuation center was set up at the St. Charles Recreation Center but it was closed at 10 p.m.

Residents in the 1800 block of Emerson Street are not allowed access to their buildings due to the fire and ensuing investigation, according to a news release from the Denver Office of Emergency Management.

The evacuation center was large enough to help up to 580 people. The Red Cross was on scene to help those who need it. Emergency management officials say if you still need help to call the 24-hour Red Cross helpline at 1-800-417-0495.

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The Denver Fire Department expects to be at the location of the fire near 18th Avenue and Emerson Street throughout the night as they try to piece together what led up to the blaze.

There’s no word yet on when the evacuation order in the block surrounding the fire will be lifted.

"It was really quick and pretty hot," said Greg Williams, who was at a senior service center and day shelter across the street from the fire when it started.

"It seemed like every two minutes it got hotter and hotter and we stepped back as far as we could and eventually the police had us move to 17th street."

Williams returned several hours later to retrieve his items from the shelter.

Pam and Neil McRobbie packed a few bags and found a hotel room Wednesday night. Pam was home when the fire started in the building right behind their townhome.

"It’s a very scary thing," she said, explaining firefighters knocked on all her neighbors’ doors warning people to leave. "They kept backing us up to the back alley across from the hospital there. It was very scary and very hot. It was unbelievable."

Lio Bravo lives across the street from the McRobbie’s.

"There’s a lot of smoke in the air that you can smell," he said, adding his home smells like smoke, too. He considers himself lucky he gets to return home tonight when so many neighbors can't. "I'm feeling so blessed and thankful. And shout out to the men and women who fought that fire today."

One construction worker was killed, one remains unaccounted for, and one person was critically injured while jumping from the burning building. Four other people and a firefighter were also injured, according to Denver Fire Department spokesperson Greg Pixley.

Forty cars were demolished by the sheer heat of the blaze, which could be felt from a football field away.

A plume of smoke went 200 feet into the air.

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