Investigators: N.O. political operative's Uptown home, cars set ablaze

Investigators: N.O. political operative's Uptown home, cars set ablaze

Friends and family of well-known political operative Mario Zervigon say the fire that ripped through two of his vehicles and home could've been deadly.

Zervigon helped get eight people, including his wife and children, out of the building.

"I think they're really shaken as a family. You have this happen in the middle of the night. It's really traumatic," said friend Andrew Tuozzolo. "It's outrageous. I mean, it's clear this was an intentional act. We don't know how or why or who, but more than anything, it's outrageous to see something like this happen."

Zervigon's father in-law, who owns the building that houses multiple apartments, describes the frantic moments when the family and others scrambled to escape.

"(Mario) said he was awakened by an orange glow, heat and smoke," Patterson said. "The two tenants had to come down the stairs on fire. I don't know how they got out."

None of the tenants was seriously injured, although three cats inside the building died.

Patterson said he raced over to the scene after hearing about the blaze.

"We just jumped in the car and had the most horrifying thoughts on the way here, because we didn't know if our children and grandchildren were okay," Patterson said.

Investigators are now trying to find out what led to the apparent arson.

Zervigon has worked for years with local and state campaigns and did some work during the primary election this past Tuesday.

While not commenting directly on this case, former Kenner Fire Chief Mike Zito said that type of background will raise flags for investigators.

"Yes, very suspicious. Absolutely," Zito said. "You look at the job (victims) have, and if anybody has any grudges against them."

Meanwhile, friends are searching for answers.

"I saw the feds and the state were out here when I was here this morning," Tuozzolo said. "I assume there is a full investigation that's ongoing right now. And I really hope that whoever perpetrated this is brought to justice as soon as possible."

Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved.