BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The two elderly people found dead in a Baton Rouge home partially destroyed by fire early Tuesday morning have now been positively identified by officials.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office identified the victims as Ivory Brown, 68, and Mary Ella Washington Brown, 71.
Officials said they had to use dental records and receive assistance from the LSU FACES Lab to positively identify the victims.
Crews arrived to the scene on 78th Avenue near Pembroke Street around 4:30 a.m. The roof collapsed and it took nearly two hours to get the blaze under control.
"Not only was it hard to extinguish at that point in time, but it was really hard to go in and discover the victims," said Curt Monte with BRFD.
Neighbors and family members gathered at the scene said the couple was married roughly 40 years.
"Life is so short," said neighbor Arnold Johnson. "We saw them for Christmas and New Year's, and they're gone."
Firefighters extinguished the flames around 6:30 a.m., but continued to put out hot spots throughout the morning. The fire also destroyed two vehicles.
This is the latest in a rash of fires across the region and the state. The Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal recently issued an emergency alert after investigating seven fires statewide within a 12-hour span. Fire Marshal Butch Browning says his office has assisted with 20 investigations in just the past few days.
"We're seeing some of the largest numbers of fire deaths that we've seen in some time. This cold weather does nothing but cause that number to go higher," he said.
Browning says there are ways people can protect themselves. That includes staying alert when using space heaters. Never run them at night or when you are asleep, he said.
"You should keep a space of three or four feet around them of nothing combustible - we're talking chairs, clothing, even pets for that matter," he said.
Of course, accidents can happen. He says you should be prepared. That includes testing smoke alarms to make sure they are working. "Every home needs to have a working smoke alarm in it - that's the only way you're going to wake up," he said.
The cause of the fire in north Baton Rouge is still under investigation.