AP NEWS

Fire engulfs 150-year-old New Orleans mansion; 3 escape

February 20, 2019
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Flames break through the roof as the New Orleans Fire Department battles a seven-alarm fire the historic Morris-Downman House at 2525 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. (Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Fire engulfed a three-story, 150-year-old mansion in New Orleans, though a 92-year-old woman, two other residents and a dog escaped unharmed.

Smoke from Wednesday’s fire prompted the evacuation of City Hall, 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) away, and an air quality caution across much of the city. Residents of eight neighborhoods were encouraged to stay inside with air-conditioners set to recirculate air inside their homes, especially if they were elderly or had respiratory diseases, a city news release said.

The fire apparently started in the basement, and thick yellow smoke, apparently from pool chlorine stored there, prompted the New Orleans Fire Department to evacuate firefighters from the basement and first floor, according to a fire department news release.

The first alarm came in at 7:44 a.m. By 10:30 a.m., it had burned through the roof and outer walls had begun to collapse, Capt. Edwin Holmes said by phone.

He said in the noon news release that 82 firefighters from 25 units were at the scene, while mutual aid agreements with four surrounding jurisdictions brought in trucks and crews to cover areas left unprotected by city firefighters,

The fire rose through the walls into the attic, and a four-story apartment building next door was evacuated as the fire intensified. The blaze eventually broke through the roof and into surrounding treetops, but water poured on from all sides kept it from spreading further, Holmes wrote.

Christopher Montgomery told the New Orleans Advocate that his brother-in-law, sister, and their 92-year-old mother got out safely after the fire broke out Wednesday. An elderly poodle also escaped from the home’s second fire in 12 years, Nola.com ′ The Times-Picayune reported.

City Hall was evacuated after someone smelled smoke and pulled a fire alarm, not realizing the smoke was from the burning house, city spokeswoman LaTonya Norton said in an email.

The house is believed to have been renovated and expanded in the 1880s from one built before 1865, according to the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans.

Its occupants over the years included four kings and a queen of Rex, the most elaborate parade that rolls on Mardi Gras, according to a 2011 article in the PRC’s magazine. It said the second owner’s three sons all were kings of Rex, and the man who bought it in 1906 — a relative of Montgomery’s — and one of his daughters were Rex monarchs in 1907 and 1915, respectively.

Since 1907, the procession has stopped at the house for a toast.