A fire in Algiers on Tuesday claimed the life of an elderly man known to neighbors as the “mayor of Leboeuf Street” and sent his grieving husband to the hospital with smoke inhalation.
Firefighters responded to a 911 call about 5:30 a.m. to find the two men inside a shotgun double in the 200 block of Leboeuf.
Responders pulled the men into the backyard and attempted to resuscitate the older of the two, according to neighbors, but were unsuccessful. His distraught husband was taken to the hospital.
The fire was brought under control by 6:09 a.m. The Fire Department is investigating the cause.
Charles Raymer, who lives two doors down, said he was awakened by the sound of a neighbor banging on his door and yelling, “Fire!” When Raymer walked outside, he saw his longtime neighbors’ house engulfed in flames.
“The smoke was just rolling all over the place,” said Raymer, 52. “And then the flames were coming through the roof. That’s when I knew it was over.”
Neighbor Tashena Johnson said the couple who lived in the house had been in a relationship for years and had recently been married after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in June.
The victim’s husband was forced to leave the scene by firefighters and police, Johnson said. “He was not going to leave,” said Johnson, who has lived next to the men for six years.
Both men suffered from chronic medical problems, neighbors said. Inside the house, firefighters found oxygen tanks that likely fueled the fire, NOFD spokesman Capt. Edwin Holmes said.
“That helped kind of facilitate the fire itself and that’s why it burned so hot,” Holmes said. “The damage was pretty extensive in the room of origin.”
Raymer said the men’s house was stocked with those tanks along with antiques, porcelain pieces and more. He said his neighbors had lived on the street since he moved there 15 years ago.
The man killed in the fire was known by neighbors as the “mayor of Leboeuf” for the watchful eye he kept on neighborhood comings and goings, Raymer said. If a truck drove down the street too fast, he would be the one to let its driver know.
Although the man was ailing and had his bad days, he always stayed alert, Raymer said. “He knew everything that was going on.”