A longtime resident of Zion City died Tuesday night after a fire caused by an unattended pot on a stove consumed his north Baton Rouge home.
Firefighters responded to the fire in the 5200 block of Stearns Street just before midnight Tuesday and found Vernon Ray Mack’s home engulfed in flames, the Baton Rouge Fire Department said.
The flames were brought under control in about 20 minutes. When firefighters searched the home, they found Mack, 58, and tried to resuscitate him. But he was already dead, department officials said.
Dr. Beau Clark, the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, said Wednesday that Mack died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation and ruled his death accidental.
The late-night blaze destroyed Mack’s home, leaving in its wake a shell of a house. Parts of the roof caved in and the inside looked black and charred, especially near the rear of the home.
The only part of the home mostly untouched by the flames was the front porch, where a bird cage hung and a baby crib sat.
Mack’s family members and friends, many of whom live in the neighborhood, described him as friendly and giving, always willing to open up his home to someone who needed shelter for the night.
In fact, family members expressed some surprise when they learned he was home alone at the time of the fire because of how often he had company.
Trelina Thomas, 26, who was among the friends mourning Mack’s death, said he often let her stay at his home if she had nowhere else to go.
“ ‘Just keep the faith’ — that’s what he would tell me,” Thomas said. “Just keep the faith.”
Mack was known around the neighborhood as a handyman. Earlier Tuesday, his family members said, Mack worked on three houses to help prevent pipes from freezing for the coming cold spell.
“He worked every day,” said Dominco Mack, 44, Vernon Mack’s nephew.
The nephew said his uncle often fed anyone in need of food, offering hot dogs and sandwiches and, on occasion, whipping up a meal himself.
Vernon Mack awoke early every day and strolled down the street to his sister’s house by 8 a.m., where he would often enjoy a cup of coffee, said his sister, Betty Mack.
“He was a beloved brother,” Betty Mack said. “And he will be dearly missed.”
Other friends and family who gathered Wednesday morning echoed her statements.
“He just kept us laughing, and I’m going to miss all of that,” said Okawayne Mack, another of Vernon Mack’s sisters. “Yeah,” she said, pausing, “I’m going to miss him.”
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