Ragley fire update: smoke detectors apparently didn't work

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) - The Louisiana State Fire Marshal has concluded that there were no working smoke detectors in the home in Ragley where four little girls died in a fire on May 11, and they may never know what started the fire.

It's been more than three months since the tragic fire in which four little girls of the LeBleu family perished. State Fire Marshal Butch Browning says they believe the fire started in the kitchen, but it's not clear what caused it and there are a number of accidental causes they cannot rule out.

"We believe the fire did start in the kitchen in a high level. Course there were a tremendous amount of electrical wiring because in that area is mainly where the distribution of electricity goes out throughout the entire manufactured home, so at this point we've taken all the evidence we can from the scene and the statements and we can't pinpoint an exact cause," said Browning.

The mother, Amy LeBleu, rescued her three-year-old son, however she was not successful when she tried to save her four daughters. Browning says neither Mrs. LeBleu or others at the scene remember hearing smoke detectors go off. Three smoke detectors found in the rubble did not have nine volt batteries inside, nor were investigators able to locate batteries on the floor.

Browning says they do not believe there were working smoke detectors in the mobile home. "We don't believe smoke detectors activated. We believe some of the smoke detectors were missing batteries. That would explain why the mother woke up to smoke and not an alarm and of course when the first responders arrived they didn't hear an alarm."

Browning says if there's something others can learn from the tragedy, it's to be vigilant when it comes to making sure there are working smoke detectors in your home.

So, at this point the investigation is closed as an undetermined fire that appears to have started in the kitchen, and they are unable to rule out various accidental causes.

Browning says every fire death in the state in the last two years occurred in homes without working smoke detectors.

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