One person died in an overnight fire in Zachary that destroyed a small wood-frame storage shed where the victim was sleeping, the state Fire Marshal’s Office said.
George Matthews, 64, perished due to carbon monoxide toxicity, said East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William “Beau” Clark. He ruled the death accidental.
Firefighters responded to the blaze at 3641 Cage St. at 12:23 a.m. Wednesday. State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said Matthews was found dead in the detached shed on the family’s property.
Matthews lived alone in the “little trailer house,” said his brother, Willie Matthews, 63, referring to the structure that had a bed but did not have a kitchen or bathroom. Browning said the structure had been converted to a living space but did not have working utilities at the time of the fire.
The shed was situated in a grassy yard behind Willie Matthews’ gray, one-story house where the two grew up with their seven siblings.
“It happened so fast. We were in the bed, and when we woke up, the firefighters were already there,” Willie Matthews said.
By the time he awoke just after midnight, the shed was engulfed in flames, and neighbors already had called authorities.
“There was a lot of blaze,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
George Matthews wasn’t employed and had been collecting disability benefits, his brother said. But he’d had many jobs throughout his life, including construction and restaurant work, his brother said.
Willie Matthews described his brother, who never married and had no children, as a helpful, kind-hearted person. He speculated the fire could have started while his brother was smoking in bed.
Browning said that while investigators were still trying to find the cause of the blaze, they determined the fire had started in a bed in the shed.
Zachary Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Kimble, whose department is working with the state fire marshal, said he couldn’t confirm anything related to the cause of the blaze.
The investigation is continuing, he said. Several fire investigators were examining the charred, collapsed structure late Wednesday morning.