Woman who died in Gentilly house fire may have been trapped

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New Orleans (WGNO) - Firefighters worked furiously to revive an 82-year-old woman on her front lawn. She was found unresponsive this afternoon after flames broke out in her Gentilly home on the corner of Eastern and Lombard.

Her next door neighbor is in shock. The two had spent countless afternoons outside together.

“She was an elderly lady that came to live with her brother after Hurricane Katrina because she lived in the Ninth Ward and lost her home totally,” says neighbor Vicki Weeks, “Mr. Jesse (victim’s brother) said that she normally wouldn't cook because he would ask her not to, but when he went to take a nap she did.”

Firefighters say flames broke out in the back of the home and investigators are looking into whether hot grease was the culprit. They say her brother, the homeowner, made it out safely but his sister may have been trapped by burglar bars guarding the front door that were still locked with no key nearby.

“Were not sure exactly what happened. We know she was awake from talking to the brother. Apparently she was awake. She wasn't sleeping in the bedroom, but apparently they wound up on separate sides of the room that was on fire and he was able to get out the back door and she was in the front half and they had burglar bars on the door and she was unable to get out it looks like,” explains NOPF Superintendent Tim McConnell.

It's a tragedy no family can prepare for, but firefighters warn: if flames do break out get out. Don't try to fight the fire yourself. If your home is protected with burglar bars or a deadbolt make sure you keep a key nearby at all times. Also, test those smoke detectors and install new ones if your home is not equipped.

In this case crews say the house did have a smoke detector, yet firefighters aren't sure if it was working.

In November five people died in a home with no working smoke detectors. Firefighters say since then they've installed over 2,000 smoke alarms at no cost to residents.

If you or someone you know needs a smoke detector installed or their battery replaced complete the Program Request Form or call (504) 658-4714.

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