Three firefighters were injured on Thursday while responding to a natural gas fire and explosion on South Hopkins Street and West Dale Street in New Iberia.
State Fire Marshal deputies are now investigating the incident at the request of the New Iberia Fire Department. They say the fire and subsequent explosion is at a manufactured home structure used as a commercial business in the 800 block of Hopkins Street.
The incident has been confirmed as a natural gas fire, according to State Police Hazmat.
Three firefighters are hospitalized with injuries sustained during the response to the initial call, the SFM says. Those firefighters are in different hospitals as of Thursday night; the family members of one man tell KATC he is in a medically induced coma at Our Lady of Lourdes in Lafayette. According to officials, he is the only firefighter in critical condition.
Iberia Parish School Board member Raymond "Shoe-Do" Lewis confirms to KATC that his son, a fire captain, was one of the injured and has been transported to a hospital in Baton Rouge. The man is being treated in a burn unit in Baton Rouge for second and third degree burns on his hands.
We are awaiting an update on the third person injured.
KATC's Abby Breidenbach was live on the scene with more:
SFM deputies will be conducting an origin and cause investigation once the fire is out and the scene is safe. Additional deputies are assisting the hospitalized firefighters and their families with needed resources.
KATC spoke with the person renting the building who says that the fire was due to a gas line. The company servicing the gas to the home was on the scene, and so was the owner of the building, who told KATC that this is his seventh house that has burned.
Several roads were blocked off in the area due to the gas leak. As of 6 p.m. Thursday, three blocks of South Hopkins St. are still closed, from Armentor to Ambassador Lemelle.
Neighbors tell us they are still pretty shaken up after the fire, which they believe was caused by a leak in a gas line that crews have been tending to for about a month.
"We woke up to sirens, went to use the restroom, smelled nothing but gas," said neighbor Jake Smith. "We heard cops yelling, 'Get out, get out!' then BOOM, the trailer blew up."
"They had some kind of gas leak, but something went wrong, because they've been digging in this area for the last three weeks," added Lewis.
Smith was just a few feet away from the explosion.
Neighbors say smoke and fire could be seen long after the initial boom. Unfortunately, they weren't the only ones who woke up to bad news. Fire chief Gordon Copell and Mayor Freddie DeCourt had to call the families of the three firefighters injured.
"It brought me back nearly two years ago when it was the chief of police and the mayor that had to come tell us that our son was dead. Shot and killed and was dead," said Lewis. "
Lewis lost his son Garron in a drive-by shooting two years ago. He says a call he got this morning from the fire chief and Mayor DeCourt brought back awful memories of that day. And even though his son is injured, he says he's thankful he and his wife still had a son to talk to after the disaster.
"I thank God he's alive. He's alive. Garron, he was gone. He was dead. We had to go to another level. We had to bury him, and I thank God that that's not the situation here," said Lewis. "All he could tell her was from what he was told, the extent of his burns were second and third degree."
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