Vehicle likely to blame for DeRidder house fire

A vehicle parked in the garage of a family home has been named as the likely culprit of a devastating house fire Tuesday in DeRidder.

DeRidder Fire Chief Ken Harlow said that crews first received a call of a fire at a home in the Green Acres subdivision at approximately 3:29 p.m., and that the first crew arrived on scene at 3:34. He said the blaze was considered “under control” by 4:45 and the final crew left the scene at 8:29.

While Harlow said that the final determination of what exactly caused the fire won’t be known for some time, he said his initial investigation strongly connected the fire to a vehicle parked in the home’s attached garage. He said that the family’s tragic loss highlighted an often overlooked safety concern.

“It’s actually not that uncommon to have a fire start from a vehicle,” he stated. “We have actually had many calls of vehicles catching on fire just parked in a driveway.”

Harlow said that the problem in past incidents has most often been traced back to a wiring issue with the vehicle that then caused the flammable liquids inside to catch fire. He said the best line of defense is to always maintain a properly working smoke detector for early detection.

No one was home at the time of the fire, but two pets were inside at the time that firefighters arrived. Harlow said one pet died, most likely of smoke inhalation, and the other was transported to an emergency vet clinic for overnight care.

He said one firefighter did receive minor burns while fighting the blaze, but refused medical treatment.

“He received treatment at the scene and then requested to go back to fighting the fire,” Harlow stated. He said that as of Wednesday, the firefighter was doing “just fine.”

Beauregard Parish Chief Deputy Joe Toler was in the area when he saw the blaze, and he said the fearless efforts he saw from the DeRidder and Beauregard District 4 firefighters was inspiring.

“My hat is off to them. I watched as they entered the house while it was in flames through heavy smoke to do their jobs, and what they do is supernatural,” Toler stated.

Neighbors of the house fire victims immediately set up an online account for the family, and spent the evening collecting donations to help the family recover as quickly as possible.

“They’re a sweet family and we all just want to help them as much as we can,” neighbor Kara Kelley stated.