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Fire begins in AC unit; destroys local home

Rebecca Burk Ellis / L’Observateur / July 1, 1998

LAPLACE – Amidst the mid-morning sun beating steadily down and the sweltering heat of a house fire, Jerald Keys said her brother-in-law, Gerald Young Sr., was renovating his home.”He was just fixing his house up, too,” she said, through tears, as firefighters from the LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department battled the blaze that engulfed Young’s century-old home at 105 Dove St.

Keys’ son, Dameion, was outside cutting grass at their home next door to Young’s when he heard a “popping” noise and saw flames coming from the air conditioner of the old house.

“It was just a little flame at first in the air conditioner and then the front room caught on fire,” Dameion, 14, said. “I ran to tell my mom.”As the fire began, Sheila Stein, who lives in Young’s house, ran from the burning house to another neighbor’s to call 9-1-1. “I was about to take abath,” she said. “Luckily I didn’t.”Stein said Young was at work and she was the only one in the house when she smelled the smoke. “I heard things crackling when I was gettingready,” she said.

Chief Robert Bourgeois of the LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department agreed and said an investigation proved that the fire was caused by an electric short circuit in the air conditioner’s wiring.

Bourgeois said the call was dispatched at 10:38 a.m. and fire trucksarrived on the scene at 10:49 a.m. to find the house already engulfed insmoke and flames.

Additional manpower was called for from the Reserve and Norco fire departments, but the house was a total loss. Bourgeois said firefighterswere hindered by a nearby fallen power line, immense heat, poor visibility from the smoke and lack of manpower.

There were no fire-related injuries reported, although two firefighters were treated on the scene for heat-related injuries.

Stein echoed Keys and said Young was trying to renovate the old home.

“He was trying so much to get on his feet, and he really was,” she said sadly.

However, the family said they are fortunate that the fire happened during the day when everyone was awake. “I just thank God that it didn’t happenduring the night,” Stein said.

While the fire departments were fighting the blaze, which was under control at 11:27 a.m., another call was dispatched and some firefightershad to leave Dove Street to go to Louisiana Federal Credit Union at 1400 West Airline Highway in LaPlace.

Credit union employees called at 11:56 a.m. and said there was smoke inthe building. Firefighters, who arrived at 12:02 p.m., investigated andfound a shorted out fan motor in a restroom.

The scene was cleared at 12:28 p.m.

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