NEW ORLEANS - Five families are trying to pick up the pieces after a fire destroyed their homes.
The six alarm blaze spread to multiple buildings on First and S. Prieur Streets in Central City.
Firefighters plan to spend Saturday night monitoring the scene to make sure hot spots don’t flare up.
Smoke could be seen for miles as it rose from homes burnt to the ground Saturday afternoon. The fire ripped through nearly an entire city block. Distraught families watched in disbelief as their homes were destroyed.
“I just done lost everything,” said Alfred Dixon, a husband and father of three who just moved into his apartment six months ago.
He had just come home from work when he heard a knock at the door.
“One of the guys knocked on the door and told us the house was on fire, to get out,” said Dixon. “And we snatched everything and just got out.”
Dixon's family is one of five displaced in the fire. Many were renters who, like Dixon, had no renter’s insurance. The Red Cross is helping them get food, clothing, and shelter.
“The Red Cross, we're going to help them as much as we can,” said Thomas Butler, a Red Cross volunteer.
Firefighters believe the fire began at one of two abandoned homes in the 3300 block of First Street and later spread to include a multi-family dwelling in the 2300 block of S. Prieur Street.
“As you can see, there's not many people that live in this block so it was delayed detection, delayed notification, by the time the fire department got here it well was involved,” said New Orleans Fire Chief Charles Parent. “When you have that much fuel, that much fire, that much radiant heat, it's almost impossible to stop it, especially when it got such a good start on us.”
In all, the fire damaged 10 buildings. Five are a total loss, and another is seriously damaged. There are no reports of injuries, but it took 100 firefighters nearly an hour and a half to get the massive blaze under control. Two thirds of on duty manpower and equipment were used to fight the fire.
Firefighters received the call just before 3 pm Saturday. When they arrived on scene five minutes later, three buildings were already engulfed in flames.
“Hell. Real hell. Real hell,” said Robert Clay as he watched firefighters battle the blaze.
Clay owns one of the vacant buildings where the fire may have started. He said he chased away two trespassers the day before.
“There's no electricity on in there. Somebody had to set it. Broke the lock,” said Clay.
According to Clay, his family has owned the home since the 70s. He said it has been vacant but secured since Hurricane Katrina.
Especially when it's cold, abandoned buildings become powder kegs for fire, said Parent.
This marks the fourth fire in three days in which families in New Orleans lost their homes. Parent said there is usually an uptick in fires during colder months.
If you would like the fire department to install a free smoke detector or free batteries, call 504-658-4714.
The New Orleans Fire Department listed the damage as follows:
- 3305 1st St., single-family occupied dwelling, completely destroyed and residents displaced
- 3307-09 1st St, unoccupied and abandoned double, completely destroyed
- 3311-13 1st St., unoccupied and abandoned double, completely destroyed
- Multi-unit, abandoned and unoccupied dwelling on 1st St. (address indistinguishable) completely destroyed
- 2333-2331A-B S. Prieur St., an occupied multi-unit camel-back dwelling, completely destroyed. Three families displaced.
- 3301AB-3303AB 1st St., a four-unit converted double, under renovation with one unit occupied received significant fire damage and the resident is displaced
- 2344-46 S. Roman received roof damage from flying embers
- 3210 1st St. received roof damage from radiant heat and flying embers
- 3228 1st St., rear shed destroyed by flying embers
- 3304-06 1st St., front of dwellings burned by radiant heat
- Several vehicles in the block were destroyed either from direct fire contact or exposure to radiant heat