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Firefighters forced to abandon victim in deadly fire

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NEW ROADS - Investigators said intense flames prevented firefighters from saving a man who died in an apartment fire in New Roads Friday morning.

The State Fire Marshal's Office said 62-year-old Leonard V. Dimichele died due to smoke inhalation and thermal injury in the fire.

Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Brant Thompson said the fire broke out just before 1 a.m. at Dimichele's apartment on 148 E. Main Street. The apartment was built on top of a business, and firefighters with the Pointe Coupee Parish Fire District 5 made their way into the building through an exterior staircase.

The firefighters said they encountered a large amount of smoke inside but shortly found Dimichele, who they believed was alive at the time. However, Thompson said the flames soon overtook the firefighters and they were forced to abandon their rescue efforts.

"As the firefighter worked feverishly to move the man towards the exit, he became unable to ascend the steps to the door, prompting a second firefighter to render assistance." Thompson said in a press release. "Suddenly, however, both firefighters were confronted by intense, rapidly-moving flames which forced them to abandon their valiant efforts, leaving the man behind."

Investigators said the fire destroyed the apartment and damaged the business below. They believe the fire started in the kitchen, and said the apartment did not have a working smoke alarm.

Fire marshals reminded homeowners that the agency's "Save A Life" program can provide free smoke detectors for people who need one, and a fire marshal can even come out and install them. More information about the program can be found on the agency's website.

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