Free-for-all ensues following 7th Ward grocery store fire

Residents appear to take merchandise following grocery store fire

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A four-alarm fire destroys a neighborhood grocery store, and sets off a free-for-all in the 7th Ward.

The fire badly damaged an adjoining home, and left exposed inventory that dozens of people simply took at will.

Dozens grabbed what they could, in the charred remains of the store.

Brooks Grocery caught fire around 11:15 p.m. Saturday,  and by 12:30 a.m. Sunday, it had escalated to four alarms, with nearly 70 firefighters on scene.

I don't know what to say I'm just worried," said Kim Thomas, who couldn't believe what was happening.

Thomas tried to escape the flames, as they moved to her own apartment next door.

"That's how our apartment got flooded, they had to go in our house to reach the fire, it was a mess, and it's even worse now," said Thomas.

Hours later, she cowered in fear, as the looters took whatever they could.

"This here has me upset, I don't know where to go, and what to do. I'm still waiting on Red Cross," said Thomas.

The fire took nearly five hours to bring under control, destroying unoccupied apartments upstairs.

"My whole store is going, so I'm not worried about any inventory," said store owner Saed Hammad.

The store was a mainstay in the 7th Ward, for as long as most could remember.

"Just about my whole life, after Katrina we stayed in this park, and we used to always come to this store," said New Orleanian Dwan Winfield.

"I wish I could come back to this area. I know everybody, we have a family business and that's all we want," said Hammad.

As the embers cooled, dozens continued to climb past danger tape put up by firefighters, pulling out countless bottles of alcohol, cigarettes, and whatever else they could grab.

"That's very dangerous, they shouldn't do that," said Winfield.

At this point it's not clear, if the building owner will rebuild.

The store owner leased the property and says he was insured for the damage. The cause is still under investigation.

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