73-year-old woman, trapped by security gate, dies in Gentilly house fire

A 73-year-old woman died in a house fire when she became trapped by a security gate. (Source: WVUE)
Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 10:34 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 19, 2022 at 4:36 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Friends and relatives of a Gentilly woman are grieving after she was burned to death at the gated front door of her home on a cold night without electricity.

Neighbors and family members say they tried to save 73-year-old Ferilee Simpson but were blocked by a padlocked iron security gate.

“She was screaming my name inside and when I came to the gate I saw the side of the house was on fire,” Simpson’s nephew, Matthew Ballier, told Fox 8. “I had to go and find the keys and start throwing water. Then the whole porch was engulfed in flames and she burned up.”

Simpson’s family says the Serantine Street home near the Fairgrounds had not had electricity since it was damaged two years ago during Hurricane Zeta in October 2020.

Ballier says Simpson had been staying at a Canal Street motel since Hurricane Zeta but frequently visited to check on renovations.

The New Orleans Fire Department says they received 911 calls around 7:13 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 18) night. Firefighters say that when they arrived the building was engulfed in flames and that they had to force entry into the home by cutting open bars and chains on the front door.

The fire was under control around 8:30 p.m.

“We seen (sic) all the fire trucks and police cars here and I knew something happened,” Simpson’s neighbor Jewel Miller says. “She was very nice. I knew her for years.”

Firefighters say that the woman lived alone and that there were no smoke detectors inside the home.

Council member Eugene Green says the story is especially tragic during the holidays and urges anyone without power to reach out to the city or the Council on Aging for help.

Ballier says his aunt was a proud woman who kept to herself. He says he wishes there was more he could’ve done to save her.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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