A fire which ripped through the old Odeon cinema on Crouch Street, Colchester in the early hours of Sunday morning saw more than 70 firefighters in 10 fire engines attending the scene from Colchester, Tiptree, Manningtree, Brightlingsea, Coggeshall, Chelmsford and Clacton.
Residents were told to keep windows and doors closed due to the amount of smoke the blaze generated.
With Crouch Street closed off to the public for the majority of Sunday, investigators sifted through the smouldering building for evidence of how the fire may have started.
Their investigation has recently led them to believe the fire was started deliberately. Further enquiries are on-going.
On reports homeless people used the building for shelter, incident commander Terry Povey said: “I can confirm that following a search no-one was found to be inside.”
According to the commander some rough sleepers were moved on by the police earlier in the evening prior to the fire.
Colchester borough councillor Darius Laws said: “This recent fire doesn’t appear to have caused structural damage and so hopefully the redevelopment of the building can continue.”
“In its current form it is an eyesore and thankfully the owners are going to retain the facade as part of a mixed re-development scheme.”
The re-development of the old building was given the green light as recently as last week to convert the building into flats.
The former Odeon cinema, which first opened in 1931, had remained empty and undeveloped since 2002 when Odeon moved to Head Street.