DES MOINES, Iowa – Firefighters were called out to a fire at an abandoned home on Des Moines’ south side early Thursday morning.

The call about the fire at the corner of South Union St. and McKinley Ave. came in just before 5:00 a.m., according to Captain Chris Clement with the Des Moines Fire Department. When crews arrived, they saw flames coming from the home.

Firefighters faced some challenges because Clement said the home was not safe to enter and large trees surrounding the house made access with the department’s aerial apparatus difficult.

Though the home is boarded up and abandoned, Clement said it is known to be a structure used illegally by the homeless, “We suspect there were people in the house just before the fire started.”

A backhoe was brought in around 7:30 a.m. to pull the burnt structure down and give firefighters better access to parts of the home that were still burning.

McKinley and South Union are blocked off while firefighters work at the scene. Those roads are expected to remain closed through the morning commute.

Clement said, “The one good thing about the fire is that we have a large number of recent recruits who just graduated from drill school last week who are getting some great experience this morning.”

The cause of the fire is still being determined.