ST. AMANT, LA (WAFB) - A couple is faced with the daunting task of rebuilding a dream home less than two days after retirement.
The house, which is located in the River Highlands Subdivision of St. Amant, was destroyed in a fire the day after Thanksgiving. It is a scenario that has become frighteningly familiar to people who live nearby.
Tommy Temple stood Wednesday in the middle of what was once his little piece of paradise on the Diversion Canal. He said he still finds it hard to process that his dream home, everything he worked years to get, was reduced to rubble. Temple said he can't seem to wake up from the nightmare.
"Just the recurring thought that you lost everything," Temple explained. "You wake up in the middle of the night and you remember something you'll never see again."
Family pictures, records, his grandmother's old radio and much more are gone forever. Pictures taken by a neighbor across the canal show the inferno that lit up the sky before the sun came up.
"My wife woke me up at around 5:30 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving Day by screaming, 'The house is on fire!' When I looked up, I could see kind of a rolling ball of fire. It was huge, intense," Temple added.
Temple said his wife called 911. He grabbed a garden hose, but he soon realized the blaze was much bigger than he thought.
"At some point, I stopped using the hose and watch the house burn. It was awful. Every minute seemed like an hour. I watched the center of the roof collapse before the fire department arrived," Temple said.
St. Amant Fire Chief James LeBlanc said firefighters from three volunteer fire departments fought the flames. He said it was only the second time the department had dispatched its fire boat.
"My volunteers were telling me, 'Chief, it was probably one of the hottest fires we've ever dealt with,'" LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc also said the house had been burning for more than 30 minutes when his crew arrived. He said it is a problem firemen battle when they respond to calls in the River Highlands.
"That's the only area of Ascension Parish we actually dispatch another parish to our parish because their department is quicker to get here," LeBlanc added.
The fire department has a truck stationed four miles from the subdivision, but LeBlanc said it is still challenging to get a team of volunteers to the equipment to respond fast enough. He said the area is in desperate need of full-time firefighters, but voters went against the tax to fund a full-time department.
However, it is too late for Temple. He retired on Wednesday and now, he will spend the first year of his retirement rebuilding.
"It's like resetting your life. Everything you planned to do or thought you were going to do in retirement has now changed," Temple explained.
Investigators believe a combination of hot coals from the fireplace and flammable items in the attic may have caused the fire. LeBlanc said it was so intense, they may never know for sure.
No one was injured in the fire.
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