Fatal fire remains under State Fire Marshal investigation, Donaldsonville fire chief reports

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief
Donaldsonville City Council members stand at the opening of the Aug. 9 meeting. Shown from left are: Michael Sullivan Sr., Reginald Francis Sr., Charles Brown Sr., Raymond Aucoin, and Lauthaught Delaney Sr.

Donaldsonville Fire Chief Adam Gautreaux provided an update Aug. 9 on the death of a 65-year-old bed-ridden woman in a house fire July 27.

Louisiana State Fire Marshal deputies have been working with the city's fire department, along with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office to investigate the fire in the 700 block of Catalpa Street.

Fire Marshal deputies previously confirmed the fire started in a back room of the house, and the victim was found in the home's living room.

Gautreaux said during the council meeting at city hall that 14 personnel responded to the scene, along with assistance from agencies in nearby Paincourtville, White Castle, and Sorrento.

He said the fire marshal and sheriff's office investigation was ongoing. The city department's report has been completed.

"It's still an ongoing investigation," Gautreaux told the council.

He added that fire marshal deputies had been working on the investigation every day.

"The state fire marshal is working hard," Gautreaux said.

Assistant Fire Chief Travis Cedotal added that the agency has been following "every last rumor, tracking down cameras, and witnesses."

"They are just working their case methodically until they can exhaust every possible scenario," Cedotal said.

Firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire with flames present in the rear of the house, along with heavy smoke, according to Gautreaux.

The chief said three firefighters were on duty at the time of the fire, and they were on their fourth call within 50 minutes.

"We operate with three people on duty...possibly four," Gautreaux said.

Council member Michael Sullivan Sr., who works with the fire department, pointed out the department takes care of the entire west bank of Ascension Parish, and could always use the help of volunteers.

Gautreaux added that the department has mutual aid agreements with neighboring agencies, such as Paincourtville, which is a completely volunteer organization in the northern area of Assumption Parish. The small community is about 10 miles south of Donaldsonville.

"They help us, and we help them," Gautreaux said.

Sullivan commended the department and the volunteers who responded.

"Even though a life was lost, we did everything we could," he said.

State fire marshal deputies welcome any information the public believes could be helpful to investigators in this case. Tips can be submitted anonymously to 1-844-954-1221 or online at lasfm.org.