Nogales firefighters rushed to the international border at Morley Avenue at about 4 p.m. on Thursday after a blaze broke out at the Hotel San Enrique in Nogales, Sonora, directly across the street from the pedestrian port of entry.

The hotel was vacant and no injuries were reported. Law enforcement officers who did not want to be identified said the property at one time was a stash house for migrants waiting to cross illegally into the United States.

Eduardo Canizales, director of civil protection in Nogales, Sonora, said the fire started in the hotel's second story, which has a wooden floor that fueled the blaze that ultimately caused near total destruction.

About 70 firefighters and 10 fire trucks responded on the Mexican side of the fence. Meanwhile, Nogales Fire Chief Hector Robles dispatched the local department’s $827,000 ladder truck for its maiden trip to an actual fire. The truck was purchased in 2010.

Spectators wondered why the ladder truck initially stood idle after arriving at the scene. Robles explained that his personnel had to wait until Mexican firefighters exited the hotel and for the utility company to cut the electricity to some power lines that traversed the front of the building.

Once the water started pouring out through the truck's 5-inch hose, it put to shame the volume produced by the Mexican ladder truck, which featured a 2 ½-inch hose. “I wish we would have had that truck during the Ellis and Potrero fire” which destroyed five downtown homes in April 2010, Robles said.

While the fire raged, personnel from the Tubac Fire Department arrived carrying air tanks that were gladly received by their Sonoran brethren. Nogales firefighter Ramon Bojorquez, who volunteers with the Nogales, Sonora firefighters, crossed the border to provide logistical and hands-on assistance to his colleagues.

By 5 p.m., the fire was under control and Nogales, Sonora firefighters continued to spray “hot spots,” Robles said.

“Fire Chief Manuel Hernandez made the right call to go defensive on this fire and kept it to just one building," he added.

The hotel is on the corner of Elias and Internacional streets, where storefronts abut one after another.

See Tuesday's Nogales International for a detailed report and more photos.

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