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2 men rescued, 12 cats killed in New Orleans fire

Witnesses say the smoke was thick and the flames were billowing out of the building

NEW ORLEANS — A two-alarm fire shut down part of Esplanade Avenue Thursday morning. Two men were inside the apartment, located near the Claiborne overpass, but were able to get out.

Chaos erupted on Esplanade Avenue Thursday, as firefighters fought flames that strengthened by the minute.

"Lots of smoke everywhere," Janet Woodward said.

"Throw my sweats on, grab the flip flops, get what you got and lets go," Ken Balkman said. "It was scary seeing all the dark flames and everything."

Help arrived at 8:27 a.m., five minutes after the first call came in.

"We found heavy fire on the second floor of the building on the right side," NOFD Superintendent Roman Nelson said.

With two people trapped inside, crews worked to put out the blaze and get those men out. One of them, the building's owner, said the fire started in his unit.

"He said he was in his bedroom and he went to the rear of the building to check on the unit his mother normally occupies, but she's out of town," Nelson said. "And when he came back his bedroom was on fire."

Also inside were a dozen cats. As each was pulled out, firefighters began CPR, doing what they could to save them. However, efforts failed, and all 12 died.

"I'm a little worried about the families and cats and stuff because I have animals," Woodward said. "I know how it is, like a close family member."

The whole situation unfolded rapidly, however, after about 20 minutes, crews were able to bring the flames under control. It ultimately prevented any other damage and injury from happening.

"It was bad, real bad," Balkman said.

The surrounding homes were evacuated as crews fought the fire. Power was also turned off, but has since been restored.

One of the men inside an apartment was taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation.

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