Apr 022013

Firefighters try to control a blaze at a warehouse burning in Central City on Monday evening. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A firefighter works the controls on a ladder truck as part of the effort to contain the blaze at Eagle Insulation. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A 97-year-old insulation business that spans the length of a Central City block just off the highway caught fire Monday night, likely destroying at least two warehouses and sending up a towering column of smoke that could be seen from across the city.

Firefighters began receiving calls about a fire at the Eagle Insulation complex on Clio between South Robertson adn Freret shortly before 11 p.m., and when they arrived on scene saw smoke and flames and called for the second alarm to be rung immediately, said Firefighter Michael Williams. The complex includes three buildings, and it was unclear whether the fire had begun in the rear of the old brick building on the South Robertson side or the metal warehouse in the center from all the thick black smoke in the area, Williams said.

A partial collapse of the buildings forced firefighters out, though none were hurt, Williams said. From outside, numerous ladder trucks surrounded the block and sprayed water onto the blaze to keep it from spreading further, and to save as much of the third building on the Freret side as possible.

How the blaze started has yet to be determined, said assistant superintendent Tim McConnell. A motion detector went off inside one of the buildings before the fire was reported, but that could have been from smoke, he said. The intensity and size of the blaze was probably fueled by the large old timbers in the 100-year-old warehouse and the amount of insulation being stored inside, McConnell said.

Eagle Insulation was founded in 1920 by Fred Schuber Sr., and his grandson, David Schuber, stood on Freret Street to watch the firefighters trying to protect the third building from the flames of the other two.

“This is my life here,” Schuber said.

The company’s original location was a few blocks closer to Claiborne, but moved to the larger current location about 50 years ago, Schuber said. He began working for his father, Fred Schuber Jr., more than 40 years ago, driving a truck for the business at 15 years old.

Susan Proper, one of Schuber’s sisters, said she, too, used to work for the family, filling in when secretaries went on summer vacation. The building contained a lot of memories, Proper said.

“We used to come down at Mardi Gras and play hide-and-seek in the warehouse, all that stuff stacked up,” Proper said. “We have a lot of people who have been working there forever.”

When the fire is out, Schuber will determine what can be saved and get back to work.

“I hope to come back from it,” Schuber said. “That’s the only thing I know to do.”

Streams of water from NOFD ladder trucks attack the building from all directions. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Smoke rolls across Clio Street as firefighters rest against a truck. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The roof of the building was mostly destroyed as the fire continued to burn an hour after it was first reported. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

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