Fatal fire blamed on ‘unsafe cooking practices’

PATTERSON, La. — The fire that claimed the lives of two people early Wednesday “is being attributed to unsafe cooking practices” based on information from a resident who escaped the fire, according to a news release Tuesday afternoon from State Fire Marshal “Butch” Browning.

Browning stated the fire was determined to have originated in the kitchen area of the residence in the 500 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Patterson.

After the fire was extinguished, the bodies of 67-year-old Barbara Hall and 68-year-old Clarence Watson were found in a bedroom. A third occupant in the home at the time of the fire, 20-year-old Demetrius Owens, escaped without injury, the release stated.

Patterson firefighters were called to the residence about 1:30 a.m. to find the residence fully engulfed in flames.

The fire also spread to the Barney and Baby Bops Day Care Center Number Two next door due to the radiating heat coming from the residence, said Patterson Fire Chief Sherel Martin. The fire then spread to the side of the building closest to the residence, Martin said. No one was at the center at the time of the fire, he added.

Owens, who is a grandson of the deceased, told authorities he awoke to a fire in the kitchen and immediately exited the home where he was able to flag down a passing patrol car, according to Browning.

The patrol officer reported being unable to enter the home due to the heavy smoke and unable to rescue the victims. Investigators learned that Owens has special needs and being supervised by his grandparents. Owens told authorities he had been cooking before the fire and had fallen asleep. Based on the information Owens told authorities, the cause of the fire is being attributed to unsafe cooking practices, the release stated.

State Fire Marshal investigators were dispatched to the scene to assist Patterson authorities with determining the origin and cause of the fire.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and no new information regarding the cause has been released, said District Chief Lance LaMarca of the State Fire Marshal’s office.

Reportedly, the home was not equipped with smoke alarms at the time of the fire.

Browning urges all citizens to ensure their homes are equipped with at least one smoke alarm and that the smoke alarm is tested frequently to ensure it is functioning properly.

Those citizens needing assistance in the purchase or installation of smoke alarms should visit the State Fire Marshal’s Office web site at lasfm.org and click on “Operation Save A Life.” People will find a “Smoke Detector Application and Installation” form to complete and submit on-line, the release stated.

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