Home Fires Kill at Least 10 in Louisiana Since Jan. 1

At least 10 people have died in eight house or trailer fires around Louisiana since the start of the year. At least five of the fires may have been related to the cold, according to the state fire marshal’s office.

Trailer fires on Jan. 12 killed Jim Steeley, 74, of Ringgold and Charles Hartley Abbott, 59, of Livingston, according to a news release from Fire Marshal Butch Browning.

Both of those fires may have been started by space heaters, Marc Reech, chief arson investigator for the state Fire Marshal’s Office, said. He said Abbott also had his stove turned on for heat, and was a heavy smoker confined to his bed and under hospice care.

Abbott lived in a trailer home, and Steeley was living in a 6-by-20-foot travel trailer.

Reech said electrical problems may have started two house fires on Jan. 9 – one that killed a mother and two young children in Opelousas and one that killed a man in Denham Springs.

Firefighters pulled Brittney Sion, 23, her 3-year-old son, Trimirron Stelly, and her 2-year-old daughter, Analya Sion, from their house Saturday afternoon, but all died of smoke inhalation and burns.

Edward Easterly Jr., 61, of Pensacola, Fla., was a guest at a house which burned down in Denham Springs. Investigators said he was sleeping on the second floor and apparently never awoke to the smoke and fire.

Two other fatal fires occurred Jan. 8.

Reech said Joseph Pipes, 49, was using a propane crawfish cooker for heat in his mobile home in Shreveport, and Arthur Fuqua, 46, was a homeless man living in a house undergoing renovation in Westwego.

“The area of origin was a huge pile of fabric and clothing and stuff. It looked like he’d started a fire to keep warm,” Reech said. “It was cold that night.”

Larry Hicks, 55, of Belle Chasse died Jan. 4. Like Abbott, he was an invalid known to smoke in bed, but a space heater was about two feet from the bed and also in the area where the fire started, Reech said.

The cause of the New Year’s Day mobile home fire that killed Herbert Gardner, 68, of New Iberia is unknown but it was accidental, city fire investigator Marty Delaune said.