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Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
Email: kmoore@wwltv.com | Twitter: @katiecmoore

NEW ORLEANS -- A fire Sunday night ripped through a Seventh Ward converted apartment building that dates back to the 1890s. New Orleans firefighters now know where it started.

It's the second massive fire in a historic building in the neighborhood in the past six months.

Witnesses said you could smell the smoke from the CBD to the Seventh Ward Sunday, as a converted apartment building on Esplanade Avenue burned.

Artist Rickey Fox lost everything, and his neighbors stood in the rain for hours fearing their historic homes nearby would be next.

'Our house is a good 200 years old as it is,' said Alahna Moore Sunday as she stood in the rain in the middle of the street with her two dogs.

Moore said she was concerned the fire would spread to her house.

Fire investigators said Monday that the fire started underneath the building.

'We were unable to determine whether that was just materials being stored by someone or someone was actually living under the building,' said New Orleans Fire Department Captain Edwin Holmes.

He said crews found mattresses and furniture in the area.

'The area was easily accessible from two sides of the building. So, we know where it started. How it started, we can't determine,' Holmes said after the department wrapped up its investigation.

The building's owner wouldn't talk to us on camera, but said she's devastated by the damage to such a historic building.

'The roof was severely damaged, but for the most part the building was structurally sound. The base of the building, of course, is still intact. The back of the building is still intact for the most part,' he said.

Residents feared it would spread, just like another historic home fire did on North Robertson Street in October 2012.

'That's my biggest fear. And because of what happened last time with the yard,' Moore explained about how she was feeling while watching the firefight Sunday night.

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