DARROW, LA (WAFB) - Two small children are dead after a fire started just minutes before it was officially Christmas Eve.
It was a tragic start to Christmas for one southeast Louisiana family. The fire broke out in the home of a mother and her four children. The two youngest kids were killed.
It happened just before midnight at a trailer on Galaxy Boulevard and LA 22 in the community of Darrow in Ascension Parish.
Lindsay Lucas said his sister and her four children were sleeping when smoke and flames ripped through their small trailer. He lives next door.
"It looked like a bonfire, like something out of a movie, something you think would never happen to you," Lucas explained.
Lucas said when he stepped outside he saw his sister, Nicole Lucas, holding two of her children. But Dimani Elder, 6, Kevin Porter, 4, were still inside.
"I went to the back window and tried to get him out of there. I ripped the air conditioner out but I couldn't get in there. The smoke was too bad," Lucas said.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said their mother and siblings were lucky.
"When the two older children were awakened the whole room was completely filled with smoke. They barely escaped," Browning said.
They weren't able to salvage anything. Their appliances, furniture, and clothes were destroyed in the fire.
"They don't have nothing. They need everything, Lucas said.
Fifth Ward volunteer firefighters started accepting donations at station across the street. People are responding. But Lucas said he's not sure his sister who recently lost another young child to an illness will every fully recover.
"She thinks it's a dream, like can't believe it happened," Lucas said.
Their mother, Nicole Lucas, and two sisters were able to escape. The girls are 10 and 12 years old. The three survivors were taken to the hospital and treated for minor burns. They have been released and are staying with relatives.
According to Browning, firefighters with the 5th Ward Volunteer Fire Department drove up to find the trailer engulfed in flames.
"When the firefighters arrived, they discovered that two children had escaped the fire," Browning said. "There were two that were still inside the home that were apparently deceased before firefighters arrived. The trailer was completely filled with smoke and the fire was so bad it hampered entry by the firefighters."
Browning commented on how tragic the fire is for the family, especially during the holidays.
"The timing of this is terrible. You've got a mother and two children who survived. They lost everything, their Christmas presents and also lost two other siblings. It's very disheartening. And, for the first responders to come out here and have to deal with this, then go home to their families," Browning explained.
He added there were no working smoke alarms in the home. Operation Save-A-Life is a program that allows people to apply for free smoke detectors.
"I think that really is the message today. As we are in the winter season and the holiday season, we really want to encourage people to put smoke alarms in their homes. Even if you have one in your home, check to see if your neighbor has one or see if your family has one," Browning added.
The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation, but foul play is not suspected.
The State Fire Marshal's Office and Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office are the agencies investigating the blaze.
The Fifth Ward volunteer firefighters are accepting donations at the Darrow fire station on Highway 22.