White smoke is a good sign. It filled the air over Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore, but it tells firefighters the flames were put out inside the building.
Minutes before flames shot through all sides of the building at Penn Lumber.
Reports came in just before 6:00 p.m. Monday evening about three hours after employees left for the day.
It seems the firefighter in charge spotted danger and his close call to evacuate crews may have been life-saving.
Chief Kevin Cartwright with the Baltimore City Fire Department said "this entire building, three stories roughly 100 feet or more, literally collapsed and our firefighters were in the vicinity where they certainly could have lost their lives."
Five firefighters had minor injuries they were all taken to Shock Trauma. Witnesses watched, hoping and praying for the best.
Witness Klaus Philipsen says that "one of the aluminum ladders that they had leaning against the front facade was knocked backwards and fell against the fire truck and there were several firefighters on the truck and one of them was knocked off and fell to the ground."
The three-story brick building collapsed, taking the fire to four alarms, which brought in 100 firefighters. The mayday call calmed down and people stood and admired the work in front of them.
"They need more appreciation for what they do. They are up on that ladder, only god knows what's going to happen," says witness Larry Wright.