Gideon Hodge, 35, escaped unharmed with his laptop after running into the burning building in the Broadmoor neighbourhood of New Orleans on Thursday.

The blaze started in a neighbouring building before spreading. Although the cause is not yet known, the owner of the house in which the fire started is said to have been subject to legal proceedings for blight-related violations.

The house was said to have been empty and in a state of disrepair since Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, according to the New Orleans Advocate. Broadmoor is a low-lying neighbourhood which was badly flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Hodge rushed back from work to the scene after receiving a phone call from his fiance alerting him to the fire.

The playwright, novelist and actor said he "didn't think to be scared" as he ran into the burning building, against instructions of the emergency services.

"Anybody that's ever created art, there's no replacing that," Hodge told local reporters. "It's got pretty much my life's work."

Though Hodge was lucky to escape the blaze unhurt and with his laptop, everything else was destroyed in the blaze which Fox News said took 67 firefighters more than two hours to control.

Hodge posted on his Facebook page on Thursday: "It's all gone… everything."

Hodge's friends responded to the tragedy by setting up a GoFundMe page that had received donations of over $7,000 on Saturday. Hodge thanked all those who had made donations.

Similarly, Neighbour Edderin Williams, 38, only had time to pick up his wallet and keys before leaving the burning complex.

Another neighbour Derrick Todd, 62, said he had lost most of his possessions to Hurricane Katrina and suspected he had probably lost them all again, thanks to the fire.

Asked what he would do in the wake of the second loss, he said he would: "Call a friend. Stay over there tonight. Drink some wine… Probably drink more than I should."