02/20/2007 1:00AM

Fair Grounds evacuated because of fire


Racing at Fair Grounds was halted midway through Tuesday's card because of a small fire in a bathroom. The blaze in the end was contained to the bathroom, located on the east side of the track's second floor, but Fair Grounds was evacuated and racing canceled as a precautionary measure before New Orleans fire department personnel extinguished the fire.

"They didn't know if it was spreading horizontally or vertically, so the decision was made to evacuate," said Fair Grounds' president, Randy Soth.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, both by the fire department and by Fair Grounds, according to Soth.

Fair Grounds had completed six of its 10 races Tuesday when the fire broke out. Among the canceled races was the Mardi Gras Handicap, the traditional Mardi Gras Day feature.

Soth said the fire caused little damage, but because plastic burned, a foul odor lingered around the fire site.

"We'll get on that tomorrow," said Soth.