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Detroit — Three people were rescued Sunday morning after firefighters battled a massive blaze in an abandoned apartment building next to a church on the city's west side.

The four-story building, off Lincoln and Brainard near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., ignited before 6 a.m. after people staying in the structure started a fire, probably to keep warm, officials say. The fire began in the basement and soon was out of control, officials said.

They said three people, probably squatters, were rescued and taken to area hospitals.

By 8:30 a.m. the fire was mostly contained and the Detroit Fire Department sprayed long plumes of water into broken windows on the upper floors and roof to keep the blaze from spreading.

The building, next to the I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries, has been empty for more than five years, neighbors said. The smoke and fire could be seen from Interstate 75 and downtown.

Angelica Carrell, who lives in an apartment down the street, said she was coming home from work at 7 a.m. when she saw the smoke.

"First thought I had was, 'is that my house' because it was so close," she said. "I drove up and all I saw were seven or eight fire trucks and police cars lined up on Martin Luther King."

She said she's lived in the area for four years and she's seen people going in and coming out of the boarded up apartment building.

"It's possible people were in there trying to stay warm," she said. "They were probably homeless."

lrazzaq@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2127

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