NEW ORLEANS -- The thick black smoke hovered over Tulane Avenue like a malevolent cloud as a four-alarm fire claimed two businesses on the resurgent corridor.

Firefighters say one of their ladder trucks passing the site saw the fire first just after noon on Dec. 9. It was such a large blaze the second alarm was called just one minute later. Within 25 minutes it went to four alarms, sending 75-firefighters in 24 trucks rushing to the scene.

Firefighters searched the building, but heat and flames pushed them out quickly, forcing them to attack the blaze using water cannons.

The building housed two businesses, one a brand new lounge named Bar Culture. One of the owners was so distraught he could barely talk and had to leave the scene.

The other business, Reina's Bar and Grill, had been run by Reina Quant for the last six years, and she said she saw the fire just minutes after she arrived today.

"I just opened up at 12 o'clock," Quant said. "When I came, it was, you know, the fire, so I don't know."

For firefighters, this was a tough blaze to tackle. Every time the smoke turned white indicating they were beginning to get it under control, minutes later, it would turn black, and the smoke would billow out again.

Fire Chief Tim McConnell praised firefighters for keeping the blaze from spreading to the buildings on either side. It took just under three hours to declare it under control, but for Reina Quant, who choked back tears, it was too late, the damage had been done.

"It's so sad, you know, because we have to work,” she said. “It's sad because I don't know how long it is going to take for me to work."

Firefighters say no one was injured, adding that the State Fire Marshall has joined them in the investigation to determine the cause.