NEW ROADS — A 62-year-old man died Friday morning after Pointe Coupee firefighters were unable to rescue him from a blaze that destroyed the victim’s second-floor apartment and a portion of a business located on the first floor.
The intensity of the blaze prevented firefighters from getting to Leonard V. Dimechele, who was found lying on the floor about 15 feet from the front door of his apartment at 148 East Main St., said Brant Thompson, deputy chief with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Preliminary findings from his autopsy show indicate Dimichele died of smoke inhalation and burns, Thompson said.
Firefighters had to wait until they could put out the fire before they could recover Dimichele’s body.
“There was no working smoke alarm in this unit,” Thompson said. “If there had been, I think we would have had a different outcome.”
Firefighters from Pointe Coupee Fire District No. 5 were called to the scene of the blaze about 1 a.m. Friday morning. Officials say it took them nearly three hours to extinguish the fire.
“As fire crews arrived on the scene, they observed smoke emitting from the building, but they were unaware it was occupied at the time,” Thompson said.
The business and upstairs apartment were not attached, so firefighters entered the dwelling through an exterior stairwell in the back of the building, Thompson said.
He said Dimichele had lived in the apartment for five years. He rented the unit from Charles Parolli, a local businessman Thompson said ran a real estate/accounting-type business on the first floor.
Parolli did not return multiple calls on Friday for comment.
Thompson said the fire originated in the man’s kitchen. Fire investigators suspect it was caused by faulty electrical wiring from small appliances that were plugged into an island kitchen countertop, he said.
Thompson acknowledged the victim was also a smoker.
In a news release Friday afternoon, the State Fire Marshal’s Office stressed the importance of installing smoke detectors in homes and urged those who do have them to conduct frequent testing to ensure they are working properly.
Those residents needing assistance in the purchase or installation of smoke alarms are encouraged to visit the state fire marshal’s website at http://www.lasfm.org/">www.lasfm.org for information on how to obtain these life saving devices free of charge, the news release said.