NEW ORLEANS -- An early morning fire in New Orleans East left three people dead, including a toddler.
Neighbors say the tried to rescue the family, but burglar bars on the windows kept them out. Now, residents are questioning using the security measure at all.
As firefighters investigate the cause of the fire, a family is once again grieving the loss of loved ones.
"This is a great tragedy," relative Jerry Stephens said. "We just lost two other family members early on this year and now we have 5 gone."
A 3-year-old boy, a 70-year-old man and the head of the household, 69-year-old Larraine, all died in the fire. A fourth family member, an 80-year-old man, survived and was transferred to the Baton Rouge burn unit. Firefighters say the fire began around 1:30 Friday morning and quickly engulfed the entire house.
Neighbors say before crews arrived they tried to get inside the house to get the family out, but say the burglar bars kept them from gaining access. On a street where nearly every house has bars, residents are now considering taking those off.
"The whole house is barred up and I hate to think if that was happening to me, I couldn't get out and no one could get in," resident Josephine Harrell said.
Firefighters were on the scene in minutes, but acknowledge the bars slowed them down as well.
"There was trouble with access to the house, there were burglar bars on the windows so it made access very difficult," New Orleans Fire Department Chief Timothy McConnell said.
Neighbors are left thinking the bars aren't worth the risk.
"I'm really considering taking them down," Harrell said. "I'm just so sorry they couldn't get out."
Harrell said she installed her bars for safety, never considering the potential dangers.
"It's really heartbreaking right now," Harrell said. "Just so close to home."
Firefighters are still investigating the cause of the fire. They say the house did have smoke detectors, but it's unclear if those were working.
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