A Pascagoula family will be spending another night in a local motel after losing their apartment to a fire Thursday night. The blaze took away Romona Laster's home. Now only questions remain, as neighbors and family wonder if Monaco Lake Apartments have the necessary tools to help fight a fire.
"What I've worked so hard for, try to maintain for 2 years. It was taken from me in one night, in 15 minutes it was gone," fire victim Ramona Laster says.
A kitchen fire claimed the apartment Ramona Laster and her three children have called home for nearly 2 years.
"I am gonna try to wipe their beds down, I can keep that," she says as she looks through her boy's room.
Some things might be salvageable, but Laster thinks the damage could have been prevented. As flames crawled up her walls, her neighbors tried to help. But a key tool for the rescue, they say wasn't there.
"I think if we had fire extinguishers we might be able to get it under control, but without them, there's no way," next door neighbor Rick Morgan says.
"A man came up to me while we were fighting the fire, said if the fire extinguisher worked he could have put it out. Said he grabbed one, and went inside to put it on the fire, and it just squirted and quit," Battalion Chief Jerry Hildebrand says. He was in charge at the scene of the fire.
Apartment Manager Deidra Claytor told firemen that kids frequently tamper with the extinguishers. But fire officials say local ordinances are in place to ensure safety. 48 hours after Laster's fire has given the apartment complex plenty of time to replace the extinguishers. But 7 of 15 extinguishers are missing, a problem Hildebrand says is against the law.
"The ownership of the complex is required to keep them replaced and fully charged. If the empties are gone, that's one thing. But they should have some full ones on the wall at this point," Hildebrand says.
"All the residents here are very concerned that we have no fire extinguishers," Morgan says.
Hildebrand says the manager told him there are plenty of extra extinguishers kept in an office. But today, we didn't see extinguishers in their boxes. And the ones we could find, didn't even have inspection tags.
"I pay rent, and I feel that if something goes down here, we're supposed to have equipment that is fully working to help us. And it didn't," Laster says.
Managers from Monaco Lake Apartments refused to comment to WLOX. However, every resident we spoke with today said they'd never seen kids touch the extinguishers. If you'd like to help the Ramona Laster get back on her feet with a donation of clothes, money, or food, contact her at 228-235-2841.