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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arson Suspected in Major Moscow Fire

Authorities investigating a huge blaze that broke out Monday night at a factory in central Moscow said Tuesday it might have been started deliberately.

"Two sites where the fire started were found," Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Sergei Vlasov said. Prosecutors have reportedly launched a criminal investigation.

More than 200 firefighters from every region of the city were called to the blaze -- at the Fili-Krovlya roofing-materials plant near Kutuzovsky Prospekt -- at about 9 p.m. Monday. It was extinguished four hours later; no casualties were reported.

Flames and thick cumulus clouds of black smoke could be seen by drivers on the Third Ring Road.

Oil canisters are believed to have caught fire in a storage area, with the fire quickly engulfing a 2,000-square-meter section of the factory, investigators said. As firefighters battled the blaze, a 1,500-square-meter section of the roof caved in.

At the same time the fire broke out, a separate, smaller blaze at the factory was sparked when unspecified "goods" went up in flames, authorities said.

Workers outside the factory Tuesday said rumors were swirling among employees that the blaze was an act of arson caused by people linked to other businesses.

"Someone lit a match, and that's the end of it," said one worker, with a chuckle. "The land here is extremely expensive," he added.

The Fili-Krovlya factory is just across the Moscow River from the elite Moskva-City office park still under construction.

The Mirax Group bought the factory in October 2006. It plans to demolish the factory and build a high-end housing complex, to be finished in 2009, spokeswoman Valeria Romanovskaya said.

The factory was leased last year to the Monteks company, which will occupy the building until Mirax decides to start building. Romanovskaya said she did not know when that would be.

The fire was difficult to rein in, said Vlasov, the Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman. Firefighters brought in extra water via a nearby train.

Vlasov ranked the fire a four "on a scale of difficulty." He added: "The scale only goes up to five."