by Shevel Johnson
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Smoke and flames rose along the roof of the Superdome Tuesday after a fire broke out in a pressure washer being used to clean the roof of the New Orleans Sports and Entertainment Arena.
The New Orleans Fire Department confirmed that firefighters responded to the flames on the roof of the building shortly after 12:30 p.m., shortly after the blaze was brought under control.
New Orleans Emergency Management Services said on Twitter that they were taking a man to the hospital with “slight burns.” Emergency officials called on people to stay away from the area.
Officials said workers were doing a power wash this week to prepare the roof for painting.
“On further investigation, it appears that the fire broke out in the pressure washer being used to clean the roof. The damage is still being assessed,” said a statement from the Louisiana Stadium and Campaign District, a state board that controls the dome, and ASM Global, which manages the Superdome.
“The fire was in the exterior gutter system surrounding the Superdome, and only a small area of the roof was minimally damaged. Pressure washing was underway to clear the roof before the planned re-coating of the entire roof. Any fire damage during the re-coating process will be addressed,” the management companies said.
“Preliminary assessments suggest the damage is superficial and there is no structural damage or impact on the integrity of the roof’s outer skin. The building’s exterior skin and roof remain waterproof.”
A photo posted to the city’s emergency management Twitter feed showed firefighters in the ditch that separates the Superdome roof from the exterior as they sprayed blackened walls from the fire.
The NFL’s New Orleans Saints regularly play home games at the venue, often attracting capacity crowds. The Superdome has also been the site of seven Super Bowls in recent decades, and is also used for concerts, college football, and other events.
The next Saints home game at the Superdome is scheduled for October 3 when the team faces the New York Giants.
“While final assessments are ongoing, the Superdome’s management company, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District along with ASM Global, does not think the fire will affect or force the cancellation of future events,” the management companies said.
The team’s final pre-season home game, scheduled for August 28, was canceled due to impending Hurricane Ida, which made landfall the following day. The team has been practicing in the Dallas area since the storm. The team’s September 12 game against the Green Bay Packers was moved to Jacksonville, Florida out of concerns for the city-wide infrastructure and Dome staff, although the Dome itself was not damaged during Ida.
In 2005, the Superdome was used as a shelter of last resort for those unable to evacuate the city before Hurricane Katrina. 30,000 people sought refuge in the building, but it could not withstand the effects of the storm. The winds pierced its roof, bringing water to the dome’s field. The building was running on generators, which powered only the lights. The levies protecting the city had failed, sending tons of water throughout the city. The pumping stations could not operate and as a result, 6 feet (2 m) of water surrounded the dome.