NEW ORLEANS -- Interstate 10 was shut down in both directions as firefighters battled a two-alarm blaze at the Grand Palace Hotel near Canal Street and Claiborne Avenue.
The fire happened just after 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and because of a large amount of smoke, police had to shut down the nearby interstate.
The interstate and the northbound lane of Claiborne Avenue re-opened Thursday night, but a small section of Claiborne and Canal remained closed until midnight. The Canal Street exit westbound was still closed Friday morning.
Several of the top levels of the 17-story hotel are on fire, including the penthouse floor, but it's not clear where exactly the fire started. The cause of the fire is under investigation, and police said preliminary signs don't indicate that arson is to blame.
About an hour and a half before that fire broke out, a construction crew had been in the building working on "hot work," mostly welding. When the fire erupted, it sent debris onto neighboring I-10.
"The only thing that's burning we believe is wood and debris. There's also some acetylene and oxygen tanks on certain floors," said NOFD Fire Chief Charles Parent. "So earlier you may have seen an explosion in there and sent the debris onto the interstate. That's why we decided to close the interstate for safety reasons."
More than 50 firefighters worked to get the blaze under control, but they did not send firefighters into the building because they were worried about the building's structural integrity. It had been set for demolition on July 22.
No injuries have been reported.