Owner of home where massive Treme blaze began believes it was arson

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 21, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Updated Sunday, Oct 21 at 9:05 PM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - The day after a massive blaze ripped through the 1400 block of North Robertson in Treme, Chris Meehan looked at the rubble. He owns the home where the fire began.

"What goes through your head? Nothing except for a sense of deflation. And 'Jeez, what am I going to do now?'" said Meehan.

Meehan said he bought the vacant property from a friend about six months ago, and planned to begin renovations and turn it into a rental property. The windows and doors were secured and boarded up, and Meehan had installed a new roof.

Meehan's house was already covered in flames when firefighters arrived on scene just before 4:15 p.m. Friday, and so was the abandoned home next door. A total of eight houses saw damage because embers jumped across the street.

It took over 90 firefighters nearly an hour and a half to get the blaze under control Friday night. It took nearly nine hours to knock the fire out completely.

"When a fire is that large, it almost creates its own environment," said assistant fire chief Tim McConnell. "We found embers that were larger than a silver dollar over a block and a half away."

The blaze displaced six families, four of which are getting help from the Red Cross. The other two families are staying with relatives.

Meehan believes the damage may not have been as widespread if the closest fire hydrant had been working.

"They plugged into that corner plug, and the water ran for about three seconds and then they lost all pressure. There's been a crack in that pipe for months. It's been called in, like, many, many times," said Meehan.

Fire officials said there is no report of a broken hydrant near the site of the fire.

Meehan said his property wasn't yet insured; he was planning to set up insurance next week. Now that he's still paying a mortgage, Meehan said he likely won't rebuild anytime soon. He believes the blaze was no accident.

"I think someone set it on fire," said Meehan. "There's no other possibility. It's not going to self immolate. There's no sawdust lying around, there's no volatile chemicals lying around, all the power, gas is shut off, it's a clean space. So what else catches a building on fire at three in the afternoon?"

McConnell said the fire looks suspicious, but it's difficult to know if it's arson because of the extent of the damage.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. If you have any information, you're asked to call the New Orleans Fire Department at (504) 658-4700.

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