Early Morning Fire Claims One Life In Richland Parish

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning released information this morning relating to a tragic fire in Richland Parish where two occupants escaped and a third person perished in this residential fire.

Holly Ridge firefighters were dispatched to 456 La. Hwy 183 just outside of Rayville, LA. after a passerby noticed the fire at the Shady Grove Church of God parsonage at approximately 6:00 a.m. this morning. After extinguishing the blaze, firefighters located the body of a female who had not escaped the fire. The body of 17 year old Angel Johnston was located in a bedroom of the home. An autopsy is scheduled to be conducted later today.

A multi-agency investigation by State Fire Marshal Investigators, the Holly Ridge Fire Department, and the Richland Parish Sheriff’s Office determined the area where the fire originated and continue their efforts to determine the cause of this fire which appears to have originated high in the kitchen area of the home.

Through investigation it was learned one of the occupants identified as Kenny Johnston, a minister of the church, was awakened to a smoke alarm sounding in the home. He immediately alerted the other two occupants, his daughter Angel Johnston and family acquaintance 22 year old Kailen Fulford.

As the home quickly filled with smoke, the three were unable to use primary escape routes and retreated to a bedroom. After breaking out a window, the elder Johnston evacuated Fulford but noticed his daughter no longer was present. Johnston’s efforts to locate his daughter were unsuccessful and he was forced to exit before being overcome by the smoke. Johnston suffered minor injuries during his escape.

Fire Marshal Browning stated, “All efforts are being made to identify the cause of this tragic fire and to provide family members with answers. Although there was loss of life, there may have been three lives lost had it not been for working smoke alarms in the home.”

Citizens can learn more about life saving smoke alarms by visiting the State Fire Marshal website at www.lasfm.org Operation Save A Life.