Investigators: Deadly fire possibly caused by space heater

BRUSLY, LA (WAFB) - Authorities said the preliminary investigation into a deadly fire early Tuesday morning indicates it was caused by a space heater.

The victim has been identified as Verna Craig, 76. The fire happened at a trailer home on Choctaw Road in Brusly around 5:15 a.m.

Verna's older sister spoke to WAFB about what happened. "I started to call her and I said no I'm not going to call, I'm going to watch TV and that's when they knocked and told me the house was on fire. And I said lord...oh lord," says Oneida Franks, Verna's sister.

"In this case, we did find an electric space heater, which is commonly used in homes," said Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning. "Having that three-foot area around that space heater is very, very important. In this case, we're looking at a space heater right now that could possibly be the cause of this fire. We still need to confirm things, but we see this time and time again."

Investigators said the victim died of smoke inhalation after the fire started in a back bedroom. They added Craig was in the front bedroom.

"We had an elderly person with special needs and could not react to the fire. We believe it's an accidental fire that started on the other side of this house trailer with significant damage that produced a lot of toxic smoke...a lot of toxic gases," added Browning.

Browning is warning residents to be diligent about this upcoming cold snap. "Tonight's going to be cold, Wednesday night's going to be even colder. I mean I'm just really concerned that people aren't taking fire safety seriously right now. I mean right now you need to make sure you have smoke alarms, to make sure you inspect your home. Make sure that common hazards are gone and just make people aware of what to do when an emergency strikes," says Browning.

The investigation into the fire is ongoing.

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