Weekend blaze prompts community support

An unattended candle has been determined as the cause of a Sunday fire that resulted in serious burns to an 11-year-old Houma girl and injuries to her mother.

Bayou Cane firefighters had the blaze at 2502 K St. under control within fifteen minutes after encountering what Chief Ken Himel said were “heavy fire conditions.”

In the days which followed neighbors and friends have rallied around the injured mother and daughter. A benefit luncheon was announced, and on Monday neighborhood children took it upon themselves to sell their toys – including cherished Barbie dolls – at a makeshift stand near the spot where tragedy had loomed so large.

Firefighters were dispatched at 12:06 p.m., as was a Terrebonne Parish deputy. When he arrived at the scene – two minutes after receiving the call – Melanie Mills, a teacher at Ellender Memorial High School, had already escaped from the house with her wheelchair-bound daughter, Besse. Melanie suffered burns to her head and neck and was treated, then released at Terrebonne General Medical Center. Besse, family members said, was transported to the University Hospital Burn Center in Shreveport with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her lower body, estimated at about 38 percent.

The deputy who arrived at the house assisted Melanie and Besse, who were brought to the hospital by a family member. Firefighters aggressively attacked the fire, knocking it down before more damage could occur. The unattended candle, Himel said, was in a bedroom.

In addition to losing all of their belongings to the fire, the family doesn’t know yet what medical expenses will be encountered.

Erica Duet of RE/Max Realty in Houma is among good Samaritans trying to help, and has organized a fund-raising plate lunch event for Friday, with pick-up and delivery available at $10 per plate.

“All money raised will go to combat medical bills and help replace their belongings,” Erica said in a flyer that was distributed in the Broadmoor subdivision and through Facebook. For more information call 637-6080.

Bese’s contemporaries, meanwhile, sprang into action by setting up their toy sale.

Among them were 9-and-10-year-old sisters, Holly and Heidi Rushing, who moved to the neighborhood and became friends with Bese only a few weeks ago.

“They told me they wanted to do it and I said go ahead and just be careful,” said their father, Cody Rushing, who works in the service department at a local Toyota dealership. “They said they were going to raise money for the family and give it to them to help them out.”

Community unityCOURTESY