Fire destroyed a wharf and a warehouse full of rubber in the Port of New Orleans on Friday, sending black smoke billowing over the Mississippi River and threatening nearby docks and stores of coffee.

Two firefighters were injured fighting the blaze, which took four hours to control and went to seven alarms."It is one of the largest fires in the history of the New Orleans Fire Department," said Fire Superintendent William McCrossen.

Smoke from the burning Orange Street wharf engulfed the twin spans of the Crescent City Connection bridge, which crosses the river a few blocks downstream from the fire.

Adjacent wharfs were evacuated, among them the Robin Street wharf, where the paddlewheelers Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen dock. Neither boat was in port.

About 115 men, 25 fire trucks and other equipment were sent to the scene. Port officials asked every available fireboat on the lower Mississippi to pump river water onto the blaze, said port director Ron Brinson.

The cause of the fire was not known. Brinson said workers at Colley's Warehouse on the Orange Street wharf found a small blaze and were unable to put it out before it spread.

As the blaze roared out of control, small explosions could be heard inside the warehouse. The building collapsed about 11/2 hours after the first alarm, about noon.

After that, firefighters concentrated on containing the fire. The contents of the warehouse continued to burn and spew clouds of heavy black smoke after the fire was declared under control.