Dozens of people having a late lunch or an early dinner in the restaurants at the bottom of the Post Rice Lofts building found themselves in the middle of a smoky surprise Monday afternoon. A little after 4:20 p.m., fire alarms rang out in the building and smoke came pouring out of the huge vent over Azuma's sign. More smoke could be seen billowing up over the top of the sushi restaurant.
Within five minutes, six Houston Fire Department fire trucks and a horde of other support vehicles descended on the historic building, which used to house the Rice Hotel. By then, an evacuation of the residents of the towering building was already underway. Firefighters wearing full protective body suits and carrying axes made way for the building. You could catch a whiff of the smoky, burning smell a good two blocks from the Post Rice Lofts.
It turned out to be a lot of drama for a relatively little fire though. A grease fire at Azuma caused all the fuss and firefighters on the scene tell CultureMap that it was likely already out by the time they arrived.
That didn't help early rush hour commuters though. Texas Avenue was closed down between Main Street and Travis for more than an hour, causing plenty of backups. As a crowd of pedestrians gathered to watch the drama, one restaurant worker came out holding a fire extinguisher to show the professional firefighters.