Officials stress fire safety for new year after several fatal fires in December

Updated: Jan. 1, 2020 at 10:38 PM CST
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DERIDDER, La. (KPLC) - Last month alone the State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated ten fatal fires that killed twelve people; the latest one was on New Year’s Eve.

Authorities say it happened around 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 31 in Caldwell Parish. Firefighters discovered the body of who is believed to be the 55-year-old male homeowner inside. Official identification and cause of death are pending an autopsy by the Caldwell Parish Coroner’s Office.

State Fire Marshal investigators say they determined the cause of the fire was a space heater that was placed too close to combustibles.

Authorities say to keep heating devices three to five feet away from anything combustible, to plug devices directly into wall outlets, and to not use stoves or ovens as home heating sources. DeRidder Fire Chief Kenneth Harlow says to also keep heating units clean and to make sure they are not malfunctioning.

The investigation into the latest fatal house fire revealed the home did not have working smoke alarms.

Chief Harlow says the DeRidder Fire Department provides free smoke alarms through a partnership with the State Fire Marshal’s Office. All you have to do is call them and they will come and install them for free. The State Fire Marshal’s program Operation Save-A-Life partners with local fire departments and districts to install smoke alarms for families that need them. You can find more information on the program here.

Harlow says to also check your alarms frequently.

“You’re supposed to check your fire alarms with a monthly test," Harlow said. "Just push the button to make sure it still works. Now there are some new fire alarm systems out there that use the lithium-ion batteries that last for ten years. You still need to check those monthly to make sure they are working correctly.”

Harlow says one of the most important tips is to have a plan in case of a fire or emergency.

“Have an escape plan to get out of your home. We sure you have the means to get everyone out of the home.”

The State Fire Marshal’s Office says everyone should look around your homes, as well as the homes of elderly relatives and neighbors, to identify potential fire hazards and address them. Officials say those hazards include overloaded power sources, cluttered cooking environments, and combustible items too close to devices susceptible to overheating.

The Red Cross also has some home fire prevention and safety tips.

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