The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of an overnight house fire in Opelousas that claimed the life of a woman.
The Opelousas Fire Department was called to the 2000 block of Jake Drive just before 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10. Firefighters located the body of a woman, who is believed to be the 70-year-old homeowner, in a bed in the home. Official identification and a cause of death are pending an autopsy, officials said.
Family members identified her as Patricia “Patty” Prather. State Fire Marshal Officials identified her as Patricia Stephens.
After assessing the scene, investigators determined the fire began in the home’s kitchen area. While the exact cause of the fire remains undetermined at this time, deputies believe electrical factors contributed to the fire.
Officials say investigators were unable to locate smoke alarms in the home. The victim’s family tells us she did have a smoke alarm in her living room, so we reached out to the State Fire Marshal to ask about that. A spokeswoman tells us that SFM investigators weren’t able to locate a fire alarm, but they’re going to check with Opelousas firefighters to see if they heard one when they first arrived at the fire.
Here’s what state officials say:
Our investigators tell me they did a search of the house, as is protocol, for smoke alarms, but did not find any. They say it’s possible if one had been there that it fell from the ceiling or wall where it was attached and was unable to be found in the rubble. In addition, also as protocol, investigators noted not hearing any alarms sounding upon their arrival and asked firefighters about whether they noted alarms sounding when they responded to the 911 call, to which they did not.
The SFM would like to remind all residents of the significant difference smoke alarms can make in your family’s chances of surviving a fire. Today, specifically, homeowners are being reminded to change smoke alarm batteries when changing clocks to adjust for Daylight Saving Time, a spokeswoman said.
If you do not have smoke alarms in your home, the SFM encourages you to purchase one for every room where someone sleeps. If you need assistance obtaining smoke alarms, contact your local fire department and/or district, which partners with the SFM through Operation Save-A-Life, to install up to three free smoke alarms in your home. You can also request an Operation Save-A-Life smoke alarm directly from the State Fire Marshal by visiting lasfm.org, the spokeswoman said.