Fire Victims Blame Space Heater, No Smoke Detector For Tragic Blaze

The Mayor of Moss Point will ask aldermen to make smoke detectors mandatory in every home and apartment in his city. Mayor Xavier Bishop wants to prevent more tragedies like Monday's deadly apartment fire that killed two little boys.

The city's fire chief wouldn't comment on the investigation into what caused the fire on Jasmine Street. But the father of the children who died believes he knows the cause, and the reason his family had no warning to get out.

Phillip Burts believes a space heater may be to blame for the fire that killed his two young sons. Burts says that heater was the only way his family could keep warm.

"We didn't have any heat," Burts said. "It was a funny plug anyway. I guess it over heated. You know how sometimes those space heaters overheat real hot."

Moss Point Fire officials haven't commented on a possible cause or whether there were smoke detectors in apartment.  But the owner of Gray Homes told WLOX News the day of the fire, his apartments had smoke detectors, though residents sometimes disable them.

Phillip Burts says the landlord had purchased smoke detectors, but never installed them.

"It ain't nothing, he showed me the thing. All he had to do was come over there and hook it up. And he never did it," Burts said.

"No fire extinguisher, no alarm. No nothing that would help with a fire," next door neighbor Barbara Thomas said.

The fire damaged neighboring apartments. Though Thomas says her unit didn't have an alarm, Isaac Carter's did.

"Mines have smoke detectors between the bathroom and the living room and the kitchen. I have two of them. And they worked, cause they was checked before I moved in. And they was checked periodically, about every six months," Carter said.

Smoke detectors or not, the fire is causing officials to push for stronger laws. Mayor Xavier Bishop says he hopes this fire can turn tragedy into a safer Moss Point.

"I presented an ordinance to the city attorney that would potentially require all residents within the city of Moss Point, be they renters or owners, to have operating fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors within their home," Mayor Bishop said.

It's a measure that Thomas believes could have saved her neighbor's children.

"If we would have had a fire alarm, things would have been way different," Thomas said.

Mayor Bishop said he hopes the fire investigation will wrap up within the next week. WLOX News left messages for the owner of Gray Homes, but he never returned our calls. Wednesday he declined an interview on the advice of his attorney.

By the way, the state Fire Marshall's office said there is no statewide fire code requiring smoke detectors in apartments already built. However, all new construction must follow the international building and fire codes which do require smoke detectors in every bedroom and common areas.