PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Their business is burned, but the desire to stay open is strong. Monday morning, the old Pascagoula Ice and Freezer Company caught fire.
The fire and smoke closed area roads for more than an hour, and the smell and sight of smoke lingered along Pascagoula Street until midday. Firefighters were battling hotspots that flared up from the fire hours earlier.
Owner Warren Gautier said he was speechless when the call came that fire was tearing through his nearly 80-year-old business.
"I just dreaded to hear about it, when you have a building this old, been here this long," Gautier said as he watched firefighters put out hotspots.
His brother and co-owner, David, was just as shocked.
"It just breaks my heart," David Gautier said about the fire. "It is hard for me to stand here and talk to you."
Flames began to eat through the north-west corner of the building a little before 4 am. Pascagoula's Fire Chief Robert O'Sullivan said about two dozen men rushed to fight the fire.
"There was heavy smoke drifting across Highway 90, so Highway 90 was closed from Market Street," O'Sullivan said. "It is a pretty serious fire."
The Gautier family said the fire damaged the roof, break and shrimp processing rooms and the storage area. The good news is that no one was inside the building.
"We really hate to see this happen, especially how hard the seafood business has been," Warren Gautier said.
The brothers are relieved the building is not a total loss, and their focus now is getting the business open again.
"It is vital. We are in the seafood processing business, and I have got a good 40 people and their families depend on this job," David Gautier said.
What caused this fire is still a mystery. The fire chief said now it's up to investigators to answer that question, which could take several days to answer.
The owners say the fire damaged 15 to 20 percent of the building.