Children rescued from fire

Four children and their mother were rescued from a burning house overnight in Covington, according to State Fire Marshal Butch Browning.

Two girls, ages 4 and 6, were transported to a pediatric burn center in Galveston after being severely burned. The girls are in serious condition but are expected to survive, Browning said.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Thursday, 911 dispatchers received a call reporting a house on fire and children trapped inside. Less than a minute later, fire trucks were on the scene of the home in the 200 block of West Edwards Street, according to Covington Fire Chief Richard Badon.

Before firefighters arrived, a neighbor helped the mother and two of her children, a 2-year-old boy and a 6-year-old boy, out of the house.

The girls were trapped by the flames in the back bedroom and exposed to the intense heat and smoke by an open door into the hallway, Badon said.

Badon said that after the neighbor helped the mother and one of the boys to the front door, he went back to find the second boy, tripped on a step between rooms and fell to the floor. Beneath the smoke, the neighbor was able to immediately see the second boy and got him out of the house just as the firetrucks pulled up.

The first firefighters on the scene broke out a window of the back bedroom, jumped in, located one of the girls and handed her out the window to an awaiting Covington police officer. The officer than ran her to an ambulance while the second girl was located and handed out the window to another policeman.

Badon arrived on the scene to see the police officer running to the ambulance with the badly burned girl in his arms. Badon said it is an image he will not forget.

The girls were taken to St. Tammany Parish Hospital before being transported to Texas.

The cause of the fire was likely due to an electrical malfunction, Browning said.

Browning and Badon said that in addition to the home being only about nine blocks away from the fire station, a major factor in getting rescuers on the scene in under a minute was the recent consolidation of the police and fire dispatchers into a single location.

While the 911 dispatcher continued to get more information from the caller, the fire dispatcher who was in the same room was able to immediately alert emergency responders.

“We were dealing with a matter of seconds — life or death for those children,” Badon said.

The merging of the two offices happened about three weeks ago, Badon said. “It took a lot of time to put together, and it worked exactly like we hoped it would.”

Both Badon and Browning noted the response time and “phenomenal” work of the police officers, Covington and St. Tammany District 12 and 13 firefighters and other emergency responders. But Browning also noted that the house did not have a working smoke detector.

The mother and two boys were uninjured. There were no injuries to the firefighters.