16 people have died in fires across the state since Christmas

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The State Fire Marshal says 16 people have died in fires since Christmas Day, the most he's seen in such a short period of time.

"Just from Christmas Day til today, I mean, we have had over 16 fatalities in the entire state, nine of which were in the Capitol area of Baton Rouge, and you know, that's the most I've ever seen in that short period of time. Obviously the cold weather is a contributing factor," said State Fire Marshal Butch Browning.

In Baton Rouge Friday morning, a house fire killed three people, including two young children. A 19-year-old and a 5-year-old were also taken to the hospital in critical condition.

"At this time, this community needs to come together. We need prayers for this family and prayers for our community, prayers for our firefighters. It's a part of the job you just hate to face," said Curt Monte with the Baton Rouge Fire Department. 
In Algiers Thursday, there was another fire in the 3400 block of Vespasian Boulevard. Fourteen people were displaced when four townhomes burned.

"Man, it was a blazing. It was hopping all in the backyards so, it was real bad," said Algiers neighbor Kristian Miller.

And last week, a Gretna landmark was destroyed. Le Grand the Florist would have celebrated its 60th anniversary this Valentine's Day. No one was hurt. Firefighters believe the fire started in a heating unit where the owners lived.

The State Fire Marshal says while most of the fires across the state are still under investigation, he says some have been caused by space heaters and ovens and stoves being left on in homes as the homeowners try to stay warm, something they're not designed to do.

"All of these fatalities we're not finding any working smoke alarms and that smoke alarm is your last line of defense to be brought out of a sleep, that 30 second window to get out of a home that's on fire," said Browning.

That's why the State Fire Marshal now has this warning for everyone in Louisiana.

"You have to have smoke alarms in your home and nobody should go to bed tonight if they can't assure they have a working smoke alarm in their home," said Browning.

The State Fire Marshal says you should have a smoke detector in every sleeping room and the common area of your house. He recommends getting the 10 year sealed battery alarm. It will last you 10 years but you still have to test it every month.

When it comes to space heaters, he says plug them into the wall, not an extension cord. Don't run anything else off that circuit and do not sleep with a space heater on. Unplug it before you go to bed.

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