Irish bayou casino gas station catches fire, employees hopeful to rebuild

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Many of you could see the smoke from the Irish Bayou Casino and gas station for miles on your drive home earlier this evening.

Crews will stay on scene throughout the night to monitor for hot spots. They've also closed the road for the night, on Highway 11 going south off the Irish Bayou exit.

Three departments spent hours fighting this fire which cast smoke across the skyline this evening.

While we still don't know the exact cause of the fire, employees say they believe it started in the kitchen. They say even though this stop may be in the middle of nowhere, it was a popular spot among locals and travelers.

Charlene Guidrey was just starting to get ready to come into work at the Irish Bayou Casino rest stop when her phone rang.

"They got everyone out in time the fire started in the storefront by what I understand and now it's all that's left," says Guidry.

But by that time, flames and smoke had already completely taken over the building.

"I come right out here to check on everybody now we're just waiting. Hopefully, they get it rebuilt and it doesn't take too long so we can get back to work."

The first floor of the building was a casino and grocery store. The second floor, Guidrey says that's where her boss lived with a little dog. They were able to get out safely.

Robert Eiserloh with the New Orleans Fire Department said more than 61 firefighters worked to extinguish the fire that quickly consumed the building.

"It was an occupied business and it was open there were four customers and two employees in the building at the time," says Eiserloh.

Eiserloh said their only minor issue: the gas station being so remote, with fire hydrants in short supply.

"We do have some water issues because there aren't a lot of hydrants in this issue so we have to resort to drafting."

Guidrey and others just looked on as the flames and water continued to bring down the building.

"We live, work on tips. That's my extra money in the week to get by. We'll make it work one way or another but it doesn't help the situation not having a job to come to."

For a single stop that served as an apartment, business, livelihood, and local watering hole, she hopes they'll rebuild quickly.

"I think they'll definitely have to rebuild it because they had too many people who came in all the time and they'll have to find another place to hang out in the meantime."

Eiserloh said while they did have to pull water from the bayou here, it's something they train for and it didn't affect their response time in fighting the fire.

Copyright 2018 WVUE. All rights reserved.