SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - We're learning more about the raging fire that destroyed a group home in Shreveport. It all happened in the final stages of a renovation before it could re-open.
Heavy rainfall on Thursday slowed the investigation and recovery process the day after that fire. It started about 6:20 p.m. on Wednesday night at the Rutherford House group home in the 600 block of Wyandotte Street, in Shreveport's Highland neighborhood.
Intense 20-foot high flames destroyed the house. As firefighters gained control of the flames in about an hour, the Executive Director of Rutherford House, Ira Tieuel recalled a mixture of emotions. "I was thankful there was no lives harmed."
But Tieuel also couldn't hide his sadness for losing one of their five group homes. This one had been in operation for the last 35 years. "This house has served many young people through the years. So, quite naturally, I was sad to see it inflamed," added Tieuel.
The house had been empty since last March to prepare for renovations that were now well underway. It's normally used as a juvenile detention home for young girls.
What's so frustrating to Rutherford House officials is that they had already done so much work on this house to repair it. They had leveled the house. And it turns out, Wednesday was the very last day of roof work, according to maintenance manager Jerry Terry. And that's when the fire started.
Assistant Chief Fred Sanders told KSLA those roof crews had been using a heating torch. Terry told us, "I was told it sealed the, it was on a flat roof and to seal it. That's all I know."
By morning, it became obvious nothing could be salvaged. We're told the focus now must turn toward the future. "We're hopeful that we can be able to rebuild this home and hopefully continue on with the services that we've been providing," concluded Tieuel.
The young females who would normally live at this group home were moved last Spring to one of the other four Rutherford House locations in Shreveport so renovations could get underway. Tieuel said the burned home will be rebuilt.
The Rutherford House residential facilities have been organized as alternatives to traditional and sometimes distant training school institutions.