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Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. - Fire investigators are trying to figure out what started a fire that destroyed a home near Mandeville Saturday night, displacing a father and his two children.

St. Tammany Parish Fire District 4 says the call came in around 10:15 p.m. in the 1600 block of Clover Street.

Neighbors say the entire house quickly burst into flames after what sounded like an explosion.

'It was like a loud crash it sounded almost like a vehicle accident because you could hear glass busting,' said neighbor Sunnie Wicker. 'When we ran out, the entire house, every window had flames shooting out of it.'

No one was home at the time, but neighbors say a red duly truck sped out of the driveway after the fire broke out.

Sunday morning, investigators brought in an arson dog to help determine the cause.

'He sniffed around and hit on one or two spots. We took some samples and those are going to go to the lab for analysis,' said Fire Prevention Officer Jason Kaufmann, Fire District 4.

'Initially, small town, a truck's fleeing, it's like something out of the movies we assume, you know, somebody just caught this house on fire,' said Wicker.

As the fire department investigates, assistant chief John Taylor says fires like this exemplify a huge disadvantage in some parts of the parish.

Taylor said the lack of fire hydrants in the area is a major issue that means fire fighters must bring in more equipment to battle large fires.

'We have to shuttle water in from other areas, 3,000 gallon, 4,000 gallon trucks that are only water,' said Kaufmann.

The particular neighborhood just outside Mandeville has no fire hydrants, except for one at a school about a quarter of a mile away, because there isn't a centralized sewer or water system, said Taylor.

He said the parish is doing the best they can when it comes to buying and updating water systems around the parish, but they can only do so much.

Homeowner Mark Ballier was too distraught to speak on camera. He said he's heartbroken but glad no one was hurt.

He's turning to the Red Cross for shelter over the next few days as he gears up to rebuild.

If you have any information on what caused this fire, call St. Tammany Parish Fire District 4 at 985-626-8671.

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