The morning after a blaze ripped through the top floor of a building on Magazine Street, Katie Ward was cleaning up the damage to her downstairs bridal shop. The sharp smell of smoke hung in the air and racks full of sample dresses might be a total loss, but Ward said the situation could have been worse.
“I didn’t have to call a bride and say we have bad news,” said Ward, 29.
None of the gowns inside Ward’s shop at 4712 Magazine St. was waiting to be delivered to a soon-to-be wife.
Across the mixed residential and commercial building on the river side of the block, ruined belongings but no greater harm seemed to be the rule. Although it took 63 firefighters to put out the fire Monday night, no one was injured.
The New Orleans Fire Department said the fire in the two-story, wood-frame building started about 10:30 p.m. Residents at home in the upstairs units told firefighters they awoke to find smoke billowing out of the kitchen area where the fire started, according to NOFD spokesman Capt. Edwin Holmes Jr.
The Fire Department called in scores of personnel, and the blaze was brought under control in a little more than an hour.
Agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the State Fire Marshal’s Office were on the scene Tuesday, which Holmes said was standard procedure. Authorities have not determined the cause of the fire.
George Williamson, a member of the limited-liability company that owns the structure, said he expects the building to be uninhabitable for quite some time. The three downstairs units — Ward’s shop, a store specializing in Hispanic music and a contractor’s workspace — appeared to have sustained mostly water damage.
“But upstairs, it’s a mess,” said Williamson, 59. “We were insured. We’ll deal with it.”
Residents of the two upstairs units are being aided by the Red Cross, Holmes said.
Ward expressed gratitude to the Fire Department for covering the sample and discontinued dresses in her downstairs shop with large red tarps to protect them from damage.
“The Fire Department was incredible. They were so compassionate and so wonderful,” she said. “I was actually surprised at how salvageable things are.”
Ward and her mother already were at work salvaging what they could Tuesday morning, even as ATF agents and TV news crews intermittently interrupted them. They traded opinions on whether a white curtain could be saved. Ward thought not, but her mother was more optimistic.
Ward said she expects to be out of business for a while at her New Orleans outlet — she has another in Fairhope, Alabama — but she hopes to find temporary quarters elsewhere. Ultimately, though, she wants to reopen her Magazine Street shop, which had been open for about a year.
“We just feel like we belong,” she said.