Parish man killed in fire

Published 4:22 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

On the same day that the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office issued an advisory against open burning during the current dry and windy weather conditions, a Washington Parish man died when a debris fire got out of control.

Responding firefighters found several burning debris piles and the burned body of Alvin Brumfield, 63, in his yard on Eldredge Magee Road at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

According to Fire Marshal Butch Browning’s office, neighbors told investigators that Brumfield was raking and burning leaves in his yard about 15 minutes before the out-of-control fire was reported. They also said they noticed the fire was moving in the direction of the victim’s home.

Based on evidence found at the scene near Franklinton, investigators believe that Brumfield, who they said had limited mobility, was trying to do a controlled burn of the debris when the fire grew out of control and his clothing caught fire, leading to his fatal injuries.

An autopsy is planned, and the investigation is ongoing.

Dry conditions across the state, coupled with recent windy conditions, have reportedly led to a significant number of fires burning out of control and led the fire marshal to issue warnings on Tuesday even before Brumfield’s death.

Bogalusa Fire Chief Richard Moody said Wednesday morning the District 7 fire deartment was in the process of working a brush fire, and he said a Varnado resident who was attempting to burn off some grass caught an out building on fire when the winds spread the fire toward his house on Monday.

“All our parish (fire departments) have been fighting grass fires, and there have been some other close calls with structure fires,” he said.

The Fire Marshal’s Office recommends that people delay debris burning until the state has seen “significant precipitation,” and even then it recommends taking extra precautions during windy conditions.

“Our state has experienced an excessive number of out-of-control brush fires directly related to the intentional burning of trash and debris,” said Browning.

In addition to open-land damage, fire officials from across the state have reported damaged or destroyed structures in recent weeks as a result of fires getting out of hand, and many of the structures contained valuable equipment, which was also burned.

The city of Bogalusa allows people to burn natural debris such as leaves and tree limbs, but no household trash, Moody said. But even leaf and limb burning should be done with caution and consideration.

“This is one of the only towns in the state that allows it, and sometimes there is just one big haze over the city,” Moody said.

“It might bother somebody. Some people have breathing problems or they’re sensitive to smoke. If we get a call, we’re going to put it out.”

He advises everyone to do the neighborly thing.

“Pick a time, and burn when the smoke is going straight up,” Moody said, adding that time is not now.

Browning added: “We are pleading with citizens to cease any outdoor burning until we have less dry and windy conditions. Trash and debris fires can get out of control very fast.”