GRETNA, LA (WVUE) - State Fire Marshal investigators believe that a space heater placed too close to a bed was the cause of a fire Tuesday in Gretna that killed one of the tenants of a three-unit building.
Just after midnight, investigators were called to the scene of the fire at 1019 Washington Avenue by Jefferson Parish fire officials after crews discovered the lifeless body of a man on the floor of the burned-out unit. The victim was later identified as 61-year-old Calvin Williams, the sole occupant of the unit where the fire started. At the time that the fire broke out, the other two units were also occupied, but those tenants were able to escape unharmed.
"It went up quick," said Danika Fradieu, the aunt of one of the survivors. "It happened fast. Thank God that the girls were alright and Mrs. Mary was ok. Heart and prayers go out to Mr. Calvin's family."
After being examined by investigators, Williams' body was released to the Jefferson Parish coroner for autopsy. Preliminary findings suggest that Williams died from smoke inhalation.
After combing through the charred remains, investigators determined that the fire originated in the bedroom where Williams' body was found. Among the debris, investigators found a burned-out electric space heater in close proximity to Williams' bed.
"Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States," said Chief Deputy Brant Thompson with the Louisiana Fire Marshal's Office. "There are nearly 70,000 fires each year resulting in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions in properly loss. Here In Louisiana, upwards of two dozen fire deaths are attributed to home heating equipment."
Investigators believe that the placement of the heater near combustible bedding ignited the fire.
There were no working smoke alarms in the home.