Fire burns two-house garage on Clara and Nashville, nearly a dozen Tulane students affected

Sparks fly from a downed power line in connection to the garage fire around 11 p.m. Saturday night near Clara and Nashville.

Emma Discher, Senior Staff Reporter Emma Discher

The New Orleans Fire Department responded to a fire around 11 p.m. Saturday in a shared garage on the 5800 block of Clara Street. Tulane students occupy both adjacent residences. The fire was contained in the garage and no one was hurt.

The fire caught an overhanging power line, which then snapped and sparked on the ground until Entergy arrived to cut the power to the area.

“The firemen prevented the exposures from catching,” NOFD District Chief Thomas Howley said. “There were power lines down on the ground that were burned from the fire coming out the front of the shed. Entergy is taking those down so approximately somewhere between 12 and 20 residents will be displaced because of a lack of electricity.”

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Originally individuals on scene believed the fire was linked to a laundry machine in one half of the garage. As of midnight, NOFD was unable to determine a cause for the fire.

“Right now no, [we don’t have a cause],” Howley said. “We have an investigator on the way. All the chiefs are also investigators. We checked it. We can’t see any obvious cause so now we’re going to bring in another set of eyes. … [We can only rule out] nuclear fission and sunlight.”

Student Trent Yarborough lives in the house adjacent to the part of the garage that first caught fire.

“Someone came and pounded on my door and I kind of bolted out when I saw fire,” Yarborough said. “I think it was just a nice man, passerby who we actually have no idea who it was. He pounded on the door and was yelling at us to get out, for good reason.”

Joy Matthews, a neighbor down the block, smelled the fire and came out to check on the situation. She started hosing down her roof and the roof of her neighbor, Larry Gibas, across from the fire and the sparking, downed power line.

“I smelled it but I didn’t think it was real,” Matthews said. “I thought a motorbike has passed and it was the rubber. …Then you saw the embers. The embers started flying high. … I got my hose and started hosing down my house and my neighbor’s house.”

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Gibas had been downtown, but returned home as soon as he could. He heard that some of his fellow 610 Stompers were some of the first on scene at the fire when they passed it on their way to another show.

“I heard that the 610 Stompers were in a bus driving by and seeing the commotion before them they started directing traffic in their uniforms,” Gibas said. “[Matthews called and] said, “I’m hosing your roof down. … The firemen haven’t gotten here yet.” … It was already done [when we got back]. We were able to pull up and it was all under control.”

NOFD responded to the fire in approximately five minutes.