Canal Street fire shuts down businesses, traffic

Canal Street fire shuts down businesses, traffic

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A six-alarm fire in the CBD burned out several businesses Wednesday and closed part of downtown. It  also raised concerns about the lack of alarms and fire suppression systems in the city's older buildings.

"It breaks my heart," said hotel guest Sid Leluan, who was visiting from Phoenix. "There's more than just history involved here - this is a lifestyle."

Though they still stand, there's not much left in a fire that smoldered for over an hour before it engulfed the structure.

The fire was less than a block away from three major hotels - The Ritz, The Roosevelt  and The Saint.

"I had no idea. I didn't wake up in the middle of the night with sirens, but I could see it right out the window," Leluan said.

Though the hotels weren't damaged, they did get smoke. New Orleans firefighters remained on standby throughout the day to monitor the fire. The hotels housed EMS workers in a meeting room and brought in food for the workers and big fans to blow out the smoke.

"We've got machines coming in from Baton Rouge and The Roosevelt is doing the same, so there are not a lot of long-lasting effects," said Orpheum Theater General Manager Kristin Shannon.

"Your economic loss in the community comes when you have a fire like this, one, smoke alarms save lives every time," said NOFD Chief Tim McConnell.

Business owners were waiting for the all-clear to go in and assess the damage.

"I don't know. They haven't allowed us to go in there yet," said Ray Jabbar, owner of the now-closed Athlete's Foot store.

"I think there will be a demand for a replacement building at this site. The question is, how do we get to construction?" said Kurt Weigle, who heads the Downtown Development District.

Though dozens were inconvenienced, most agree the fire could have been even worse.

The fire shut down service on the busy RTA-Canal Street bus and streetcar lines much of the day. It also closed Canal to auto traffic, though the lakebound lanes and street car lines were re-opened by mid-afternoon.

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