LORANGER- Firefighters worked through thick smoke and fog Tuesday morning to put out dim flames they'd been fighting since 6 a.m.
A blue truck with a fireman's sticker on it sat next to what's left of the home on Toney Road in Loranger. Investigators found who they believe to be the owner of the home and the truck inside; 79-year-old George Schilling, a retired Kenner fireman. Relatives, including the only one of Schilling's sons to follow in his footsteps, stood nearby in tears and togetherness with their extended fire family.
“Feeling kind of sad, but ya know, it was just such a shock," said David Schilling. "I was just getting off from fire service this morning. That's what's kinda, it was hard coming to this."
Schilling had been a firefighter for 20 years, retired for almost 30, but still kept his love and interest for the job. Some fire leaders in Tangipahoa say they had the privilege of working with Schilling at the start of their careers.
"Always had his cup of coffee. He was a good, one of the better operators I've known," said Tangipahoa Fire District #2 Administrator Dennis Crocker.
Family members say Schilling had been using space heaters to keep warm, as his small pension often left him short on cash at the end of the month for things like propane. But loved ones are now trying to remember the great life and long public service he had, despite a tragically ironic end to them.
Crocker said, “Something that he fought for 20 years and that's what ends up, he ends up perishing in a fire."
“It's like you never expect a fireman to go out this way, or anybody else. It just shows that fires don't just happen to other people,” said Schilling’s son.
Preliminary autopsy results show Schilling died from asphyxia due to smoke inhalation. He leaves behind three sons, two daughters and 13 grandchildren.