The cause of a fatal Lacombe house fire Friday remains under investigation, according to the state Fire Marshal's Office, and the body that was recovered, though believed to be that of Nanette Krentel, wife of a Covington-area fire chief, has not been officially identified.
St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 12 Chief Steve Krentel and his wife lived at the house on Phillip Smith Road in Lacombe.
Assistant Fire Chief Kris Hines said the department has been "hit on a personal level."
The St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office conducted an autopsy but is awaiting DNA results to identify the remains, Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Brant Thompson said.
Nanette Krentel, a former preschool teacher, would have turned 50 on Thursday, according to Lori Rondo, a friend from high school days at Archbishop Chapelle High School in Metairie.
She described her friend as generous and kind, an animal lover and someone who kept up with her former students, even though she had retired from St. Michael's Episcopal Preschool years ago. "She stayed in touch. A lot of teachers don't do that," Rondo said. "She made everyone she met want to be a better person."
Thompson confirmed the remains of pets also were found.
The Krentels' home was in a remote location, Thompson said. The one-story, 3,000-square-foot frame building with a tin roof was fully engulfed in fire when firefighters arrived on the scene Friday, he said.
The fire is believed to have started about 2:30 p.m., he said. Investigators with the Fire Marshal's Office and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office were on the scene by 3 p.m.
At that point, Thompson said, the house was not accessible, with many hot spots remaining. The structure collapsed, and the roof had to be removed before the remains could be recovered. The house was destroyed, as were vehicles in the garage.
Outside Fire District 12 headquarters Monday, a box had been set up with a hand-lettered sign reading: "Donations/Thank you for your support during this difficult time — Your FD12 Family."
"We're not used to being on this side of things," Hines said. "We are doing what we do in a difficult situation and are rallying behind our brother."