The LeBeau Plantation, one of the largest plantations south of New Orleans, was gutted on Friday morning by a fire that officials believe may be suspicious.
The Old Arabi landmark was built in the 1850s and was described as “priceless” by fire chief Thomas Stone, who called in an arson dog to investigate the remains.
“Every chief’s worst nightmare is to have a historical structure destroyed in their community, and that is what happened here,” Stone said. “We got the call around 2:11 a.m. and the first unit that got on the scene said it was engulfed in fire. …It was total devastation.”
The plantation home has been everything from a private residence to an illegal casino and held over a century of history and memories, although this is not the first time a fire has broken out there; a blaze destroyed part of the roof in the 1980’s. It is currently owned by the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, which released a statement saying those in charge of the organization anxiously await results of the investigation.
Investigators believe the fire is suspicious because the building was vacant and was not equipped with electricity. Chief Stone has asked that anyone with information about the fire call the parish Fire Department’s fire prevention bureau at 504.278.4477.
UPDATE: Officials say they have 7 suspects in custody at this time.
Investigators say that a group of people entered the building with the intention of looking for ghosts and were drinking and smoking, but the fire was set deliberately.