Mercer said the fire started at 608 Ludlow, where he said neighbors reported people had been doing pre-renovation work to see how much work was necessary to restore the structure that had been vacant for a while.
“With all the wind, it really flares that fire up,” Mercer said.
No residents or firefighters were injured.
Fire crews from Hamilton, Fairfield Township and Ross Township responded.
The building on either side also was destroyed, with another suffering minor damage to its siding. The buildings are about two blocks east of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and two blocks south of High Street.
In scanner traffic, emergency crews described the scene as “a large, large fire,” and said that they were working on evacuating neighboring homes.
Police officers Jason Holmes and Taylor Bryant made sure people were out of the surrounding buildings.
Mercer said it will be difficult to determine the fire’s cause because the building was leveled. Perhaps somebody broke in and was trying to keep warm on a cold, windy night, he guessed.
It remains under investigation.