Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office Reports Two Deadly Fires, Calls For Increased Preparedness for Mobility-Challenged Louisianans

By Evelina Rivers
Published June 08, 2023

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Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office Reports Two Deadly Fires, Calls For Increased Preparedness for Mobility-Challenged Louisianans

Louisiana – The Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office has reported two deadly fires and is calling for increased preparedness for mobility-challenged Louisianans.

Deputies from the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office (LASFM) are continuing their investigation into two separate mobile home fires in North Louisiana that killed two individuals, one of whom was mobility-challenged.

“After more than a month without a loss of life in a home fire, our agency was called to investigate four fatal fires within a week and a half, all in North Louisiana, and all but one involving a victim that was mobility challenged,” said State Fire Marshal Dan Wallis, “I am calling on all individuals who are mobility challenged to take a look around your home, right now, and create an escape plan that helps you navigate your unique circumstances, quickly and efficiently, to ensure you can escape a fire threat safely.”

The first fire broke out around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31. The Winnsboro Fire Department responded to a mobile home fire in Gilbert’s 300 block of Clyde Weems Loop. When firefighters arrived, they discovered a man dead in the living room of the home.

“Our preliminary death investigation reveals the decedent is Michael W. Stephenson, 68, of Baskin,” said Shane Scott, spokesperson for the Franklin Parish Coroner’s Office, “Official identification and cause of death are pending an autopsy by our office.”

Deputies have concluded that the fire started in the living room area where the victim was discovered. While a specific cause has yet to be discovered, deputies are unable to rule out the potential that dangerous smoking behaviors played a role.

The second fire broke out around 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, June 4. Desoto Fire District #3 was dispatched to a mobile home fire in the 200 block of Kayla Drive in Grand Cane. When firefighters arrived, they discovered that there were two persons in the home when the fire was detected. One man was able to flee and sought to assist the second man, who was mobility-challenged and unable to get out of the home, but the rescue effort was ultimately failed.

At this moment, deputies believe the fire started in a bedroom. While the specific cause is unknown, deputies cannot rule out the likelihood of an electrical malfunction caused by overheating during appliance charging as a contributing factor.

While both of these investigations are ongoing, the LASFM wishes to remind Louisiana residents of the significance of fire safety awareness and prevention when it comes to smoking and electronics. When it comes to smoking safety, always smoke outside. Ensure that smoking materials are completely extinguished and disposed of in appropriate receptacles, and keep smoking materials, particularly spark-producing instruments such as lighters, out of the reach of youngsters. In terms of electronic safety, ensure that all appliances and electronic gadgets are charged using the equipment specified by the manufacturer. Keep charging appliances and devices on a non-combustible, clutter-free surface, and unplug the charging cords once charging is complete to minimize overheating.

Furthermore, authorities have been unable to ascertain whether either homes had working smoke alarms. Check that your smoke alarms are operational. Operations Save-A-Life can assist you in obtaining smoke alarms for your home.

Visit the LASFM website at lasfm.org to learn more about Operation Save-A-Life or to register for a free smoke alarm, or call your local fire department to request a free smoke alarm installation.