Firefighter Brian Besson said he never thought he would be faced with battling a fire in his own home.
But that’s exactly what Besson, who works for the East Side Fire Department, was doing the night of April 29, when an electrical malfunction in his garage sparked a blaze that ruined his South Fairview Avenue home near Millerville Road.
Besson said he is just thankful both he and his 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, escaped unharmed.
“It just goes to show, everybody’s susceptible to fire,” Besson said. “Being a fireman, you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
In an interview the day after the fire, Besson said he was watching TV after putting Olivia to sleep when he heard loud noises coming from his garage.
He said he ran to his daughter’s room, which is connected to a hallway that leads to the garage. He said he saw flames shooting into the hallway from the garage, so he grabbed his daughter and escaped through a rear door. He took her to a neighbor’s house before getting his firefighting gear from his truck and calling 911.
“I figured I’d be the best one to go in and lead the attack,” he said.
The fire engulfed the garage and reached through the roof, causing about $175,000 in damage to the house, East Side Fire Chief Dale Hancock said.
Investigators believe an extension cord plugged into an outlet sparked, igniting flammable liquids stored nearby, including gasoline for a riding lawn mower, Hancock said.
Hancock said the fire serves as a lesson not to store flammable liquids in any structure connected to a house.
“A lot of people will buy a little shed from Lowe’s or Home Depot or something, and that’s where they should store their flammable liquids … if it’s possible,” he said.
For now, Hancock said, he and his department have been accommodating Besson by covering some of his shifts.
Hancock also said he has dealt with two house fires at his own homes — once as a child and once shortly after getting married — so he knows what Besson is facing.
“There’s only so much you can do,” Hancock said. “I think the (East Side) Fire Department has rallied around him a lot.”
Besson chose not to receive assistance from the American Red Cross, but even firefighters need help after a fire at their own home, said Nancy Malone, a Red Cross spokeswoman. “It’s critical to have somebody there for comfort,” she said.
Besson, in a follow-up interview Monday, said his insurance company helped him move into a nearby apartment and has him in touch with a contractor to rebuild his home. Besson said he is grateful for the support from the firefighting community.
“Pretty much every department in the city has called and asked what they can do for me,” he said.
Curt Monte, president of the Baton Rouge Firefighters Association, said firefighters from different departments often support one other because they work together.
“When you spend that much time and train and you’re around folks, they really become your second family,” he said.
Monte said he once had to put out a fire at the home of his father, who served for 30 years as a firefighter himself.
“It’s something that we try to use to explain to the public: that tragedy can happen in an instant, and it can happen to anyone,” he said.
Robert Stewart is a general-assignment reporter for The Advocate. His email address is email@example.com.