Man loses everything in house fire on first day of new job

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge family has lost everything in a house fire less than two weeks before Christmas.

Firefighters say the fire that destroyed their house located on North Baxter Street was caused by electrical issues.

Two people were at home at the time of the fire but fortunately were able to get out safely. Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Mark Miles said firefighters received the call around 10:12 a.m. Wednesday. The first crews arrived to find the house "fully involved" in flames and the fire was coming out of all of the windows on the north side of the house. Miles said the pre-incident value of the home was $60,000.

The two people who were in the house told firefighters that the fire started in the kitchen. One of them attempted to put out the fire before calling 911. Miles said firefighters are still investigating to determine the exact cause.

A total of three people live in the house. The third person, Joseph Stelly, had been out of work for a month and was on the first day of a new job when he got a  call about the fire.

"They said the walls started sparking," Stelly told reporters at the scene. He left work to go home and the fire was out when he got home. "I'm just glad that everybody got out, nobody's hurt. I thank God for that."

Stelly said the family was preparing a special Christmas and just got a new living room set. It hadn't been in the house for more than 24 hours before the fire broke out., he said. All of the family's Christmas presents were also inside. "Everything that is in the house is gone," he said.

However, with everything covered in soot but the clothes his family escaped in, Stelly finds a small sign of hope in his bedroom, "I moved back some stuff and my toolbox was right there intact."

Stelly's plastic toolbox, a constant resource when he's working, was saved. He said that gives him peace of mind that brighter days are ahead. "Out of all the stuff that's been destroyed in the house, the tools that I work with are the only thing that I have left here," Stelly said. "That's amazing. That's why I have to stay positive."

For those who would like to help, contact Councilwoman Tara Wicker's office at 225-389-8720. She and her office are working with the Lighting Christian Community Foundation to help get Stelly back on his feet.

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