MANDEVILLE, La. - A massive early morning fire destroyed a Mandeville restaurant Tuesday. No one was hurt, but The Pointe on North Causeway Boulevard was a total loss.
Firefighters responded a few minutes before 5 a.m. Tuesday to 911 calls. Flames were visible for several hours to thousands of commuters heading south towards the Causeway Bridge.
"Still in shock, can't believe it happened," Pointe owner Dr. George Isa said Tuesday morning outside his restaurant. "Everything was going well and now we're closed."
Dr. Isa said the restaurant hosted a private party Monday night, and he was the last to leave. He said he had no idea how the fire started. St. Tammany Fire District 4 Chief Merrick Tassin said the cause is under investigation.
"I still think it's surreal," Dr. Isa said. "I'm just walking around thinking, I can't believe this happened."
Two factors made getting the fire under control quickly difficult, according to Chief Tassin. First, renovations inside the restaurant created nooks and crannies where the fire hid and grew. The restaurant was known as LA Grill until reopening in January as The Pointe.
"This particular building has been remodeled maybe two or three times, which was a problem. Some of the fire was in some of the hidden spaces that was covered up," Chief Tassin said. "Guys got on the roof to do a vertical ventilation and during the process, shortly afterwards, they got off because it became unsafe, and the fire progressed in the hidden spot underneath it and got around the back side of them. So, we pulled them off."
"They thought they had it out," Dr. Isa added. "There was a second flame, they put that out. (At that point we) mainly had smoke damage. We thought we were were good, and we had a third flame on the roof and by that time, the entire building went up."
The fire snarled traffic on Causeway Boulevard, also known as Highway 190, as drivers rubbernecked to see the flames.
"One of the other problems is," Chief Tassin explained, "there was a lack of water."
There are no fire hydrants in the immediate area, so water tankers had to be brought in, slowing down fire fighters."This is a pretty good sized fire," Chief Tassin said. "Hadn't had one this size in quite awhile."
More than 40 fire fighters from several agencies successfully prevented the fire from catching nearby businesses. An accounting firm next door suffered minor damage, but Chief Tassin praised the work of fire fighters for minimizing damage. No one was hurt in the fire as the restaurant was empty at the time, and no fire fighter was hurt battling the blaze.
"It was a neat little place," Dr. Isa said. "It was a nice restaurant. A little nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights. Employed a lot of people here in Mandeville. We'd like to open up again, but we'll see."