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Fire upends life for two Gentilly men who were already facing obstacles

"It might look like all trash right now but believe me, it wasn’t," Jesse Llopis said.

NEW ORLEANS — Carefully walking through his hallway, ashes at his feet, Jesse Llopis is trying to save anything he can. 

“Medicine, cologne, few papers,” Llopis said. “It’s tore up”

His home, on Baccish Street in Gentilly caught fire early Sunday morning with him and his stepfather inside.

“I was sleeping, I heard my stepfather, hollering my name, dogs barking,” Llopis said.

He rushed to his stepfather, Andrew Douglas who has a prosthetic leg and uses a wheelchair. 

“I got up and looked and smoke was over my head,” Douglas said. “I looked down the hall, fire was down the hall.”

With a garage on the first floor and living on the second floor, they knew they needed to get out quickly.

“It was hot. It was hot,” Douglas said.

Llopis grabbed the wheelchair. Douglas had to get himself down the stairs.

“Scooted down, step by step by step,” Douglas said.

Once outside, all both men could do was watch their home, which was rebuilt after Katrina, be charred by flames.

“Heartbreaking. More than just material, you know, it’s sentimental, a family house, worked hard putting it back together,” Llopis said.

With no insurance, both men are now living in a hotel for a few days thanks to the American Red Cross. Andrew says firefighters believe the fire started in the garage. That’s where his prized Harley-Davidson was parked.

“That was my baby there,” Douglas said.

He had it for a few years and it was a needed distraction from all his health battles over the years.

“Back surgery, wrist surgery, I’ve had 14 surgeries and last April I had an aneurysm. My lung collapsed on me twice,” Douglas said.

Thankful to be alive, both men know they’re lucky but still heartbroken in losing the place they called home.

“I’m devastated. It might look like all trash right now but believe me, it wasn’t,” Llopis said.

Douglas says he has another property in the Seventh Ward he can move into once he lives in the hotel. Llopis is still figuring out where he can go.

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