Skip to main content

Officials: 8 fire victims in New Orleans were in teens, early 20s

By Scott Thompson and Phil Gast, CNN
Click to play
8 dead in abandoned building fire
  • NEW: Victims were in their late teens or early 20s
  • WDSU: The victims may have sought warmth from freezing temperatures
  • The victims are believed to have been homeless
  • The call came in shortly before 2 a.m.

Follow local coverage of the fire with CNN affiliates WDSU and WWLTV.

(CNN) -- Eight people who died in a fire in an abandoned building in New Orleans, Louisiana, overnight are believed to have been in their late teens or early 20s, the city fire department said Tuesday.

The victims, who were in a small warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward, are believed to have been homeless and were burning a fire to stay warm, officials said.

Two squatters tried to wake the others but had to eventually flee through a window in the tin building, authorities said.

A fire department dispatcher said the call came in shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday.

"The area is known to be frequented by transients," said fire department spokesman Capt. Edwin Holmes Jr.

Those inside apparently were burning trash in a barrel, Holmes said. An investigator indicated the bottom of the barrel may have burned through, Holmes said.

Authorities also found the remains of two dogs.

Chief Charles Parent told CNN affiliate WDSU that the victims may have sough warmth inside the building as temperatures dipped below freezing in the area. A freeze warning was in effect for the region early Tuesday, WDSU reported.

Holmes said that numerous phone calls Tuesday indicated that some of the victims may have been from out of town.

The building is less than a mile from the French Quarter and was likely abandoned before Hurricane Katrina. Many of the victims may have known each other by nicknames, Holmes said. The area is known for panhandling, he said.

Authorities were in the process of identifying the badly burned victims, who may have died from carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation, Holmes said.