Man, 71, seeking to stay warm dies in BR house fire

Officials: Blaze started for warmth

A 71-year-old man known for collecting neighborhood scraps died early Wednesday morning inside his Sycamore Street home after losing control of a fire he started to keep warm, fire officials said.

Firefighters discovered the body of Curtis Moore near the back of the home while extinguishing the flames around 2 a.m. Wednesday, said Robert Combs, a Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman.

Dr. Beau Clark, East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, said Moore died of carbon monoxide poisoning and the death was ruled an accident.

The news about Moore starting the fire didn’t surprise neighbors, who said the man often did so during cold weather spells because the home had been without running water or electricity for years.

Will Johnson, an Entergy spokesman, said records indicate the home hasn’t had electricity since September 2007.

Moore, 71, had a predictable daily schedule, neighbors said.

During several outings, Moore would gather as much junk as he could fit into a few trash bags before returning home and dumping his finds inside the house, which sits in the 3700 block of Sycamore Street, just off Plank Road.

“He’d just sing to himself,” walking down the street, slowly filling up bags with scraps, said Derrick Thompson, one of Moore’ neighbors. “But you couldn’t understand what he was saying.”

Thompson sometimes brought Moore leftover food, and other neighbors said it took a group effort to keep the yard relatively rubbish-free.

“We’re going to miss him,” Thompson said.

About 1 a.m. Wednesday, one of Moore’s neighbors heard him come home. It wasn’t long before dogs started barking, then the house went up in flames.

“It sounded like somebody shooting,” Thompson said. So he hopped out of bed, slid across some wood flooring and told his questioning wife, “I’m getting the water hose!”

Another neighbor had already reported the growing blaze, which firefighters began dousing with water around 1:40 a.m. It took them about 40 minutes to control the fire, said Combs, the fire department spokesman.

Early Wednesday morning, as bystanders stood outside the burning house, Thompson said the smell was so putrid most onlookers had to cover their noses to dilute the stench — an effect he attributes to the mounds of trash piled inside the house.

When asked to describe the smell, he said, “like a Dumpster on fire.”

Bicycle frames, plastic bottles and CDs littered the home, along with a grocery cart, broken sunglasses and torn-up household furniture. A layer of trash, in many places appearing at least a foot deep, covered the floor throughout most of the home.

Neighbors said Moore’ niece moved out of the house to a nearby location years ago, leaving the elderly man to hoard the junk inside the decaying home. Attempts to reach Moore’s relatives and previous residents of the home on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Neighbors hope the home, already an eyesore before the fire rendered it a “total loss,” will be torn down before snakes, rats and other critters invade the mostly charred former living quarters.

“They need to tear it down,” Thompson said, other neighbors echoing his sentiment.

Editor’s note: This story was changed to correct Curtis Moore’s name. It was incorrectly reported as Curtis Morris.