Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- When it was all over, the top floor of the two-story structure was burned away. It was the rear house in an empty complex of four buildings.

The house Jeff Farshad is restoring was just feet away from the fire, and he thanked firefighters for saving his home.

'It's very frightening,' he said. 'Scared for everybody's lives, especially when there's not much space between the houses. But I mean, I've been putting my heart and soul into this place right here, and to see it coming that close to going, it's crazy.'

It didn't take investigators long to figure out that someone started what might have been a cooking fire on the second floor.

'It looks like somebody had set a fire on that back porch, and then it got out of control, ran up the wall, and then got into the attic of the building,' said Deputy Fire Chief Tim McConnell.

'This is heartbreaking, obviously,' added Farshad. 'But yeah, we've been seeing a lot of gutter punks come through here. They make their little camps here.'

Smoke poured through the historic Treme neighborhood when the fire broke out before dawn. Nearly 50 firefighters rushed to the scene.

In the mid-summer, it was exhausting work fighting the fire while wearing heavy protective gear, and one firefighter was injured.

'They had a piece of plywood come off, and hit him in the chest, right below his neck,' said Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Trainor. 'EMS transported him to the hospital to make sure he is OK.'

For New Orleans firefighters, these are among the scariest blazes they have to fight, because these are in the city's oldest neighborhoods, the historic neighborhoods. The wood is old and the houses are packed closely together, so they attack these aggressively.

'In this case it went to a second alarm, but to throw enough resources at it to get it under control really quickly, because in these old neighborhoods, wood structures, it just spreads so quickly,' said McConnell.

Firefighters say they often inspect abandoned buildings in historic neighborhoods to know what they'll face if they catch fire. The owner of the property, Providence Community Housing, released a statement saying they are trying to start construction on the property, and will rush that process, including installing a construction fence.

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