LOS ANGELES " Fire in a storied building at Hollywood and Vine spit flames 40 feet into the air and covered the city in choking smoke as it burned close to landmarks like the Capitol Records building and the Pantages Theater.
The one-story building is home to the Basque Nightclub & Restaurant, but it was not open at the time and no injuries were reported, Los Angeles City Fire spokeswoman d'Lisa Davies said.
Council Tom LaBonge said he was hiking near the Griffith Park Observatory at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday when he saw the fire erupt a few miles away. "I saw what looked like an orange meteor busting through the roof ... a half moon of orange glow."
Two hours after it started, the fire was about 99 percent contained, Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva said. "We just have small spot fires that keep popping up." Four businesses were damaged " the nightclub, a tattoo parlor, a beauty supply company and a vacant shoe store.
Villanueva said firefighters were lucky because the fire took place so early and engines could get through the normally clogged streets at what Hollywood likes to call the world's "most famous intersection in the most famous neighborhood."
Arson investigators were on scene but hadn't entered the building, he said.
Councilman Eric Garcetti said there was concern because it was one of several fires in older buildings in the last 18 months. "They are probably unrelated but the fact that we're seeing five fires in a 10-block square radius bears some investigation," he said.
Many buildings in the area date from the 1930s and "they take extra care," Garcetti said.
The nightclub was last inspected on Feb. 15 and passed, Garcetti said.
Built in the 1920s or '30s, the building has been a Brown Derby, a Howard Johnson's, a nightclub called Deep, a music studio and other businesses through the years.
Matt Damon played cards in the building (when it was Deep) for scenes in the movie "Ocean's Eleven," Councilman Tom LaBonge said.
Celebrities with Walk of Fame stars at the corner include actors James Stewart, James Dean and Robert Sterling, actresses Judy Garland, Deborah Kerr, singer Slim Whitman and jazz pianist Eddie Heywood.
The subway through the area remained open, but traffic through Hollywood was at a halt.
Forty engine companies and 180 firefighters battled the blaze, forming a surreal scene as dawn highlighted palm trees from above and fire set them aglow from below. Fire hoses snaked through the streets as water levels crept up.