House Explosion on Matilda Street

POSTED: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 5:00pm

UPDATED: Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 8:36am

An explosion, just after 10:30pm, rocked the 1500 block of Matilda Street last night. The Baton Rouge Fire Department sent nine units to battle the blaze. The fire took four hours to contain. The damage it left has residents here, shaken.

Hattie Mickles almost lost her 20 year old son in the blaze. Donald Mickles was alone in the home when a fire started in the dining room. She sat with him today in the hospital as he told her what happened.

“He went to the kitchen to get a cold drink and he said ‘Oh My God’,” Hattie said. “When he got to the dining room he said something was on fire, and the explosion from the dining room blew him to the living room and out the window.”

Donald is in stable condition now, but suffered second and third degree burns on most of his body.

His mother described his injuries as covering "his forehead, his nose, his ears, under his eye, both of his hands, his back - a fourth of his back is completely burned, both of his legs and his feet."

Seeing the leveled structure today, she is just thankful her son is alive to tell the story.

"There's nothing left - no pictures, no nothing, but I'm glad my son made it out alive. Even though he was blown out, he's alive," she said.

Flames also destroyed a neighboring home. It had been passed down for generations, in Elizabeth Brumfield's family. Her grandfather built the house room by room, with material he salvaged while working for the railroad. The cypress siding, antique tub and porch swing he saved from the Old Governor's Mansion, when it was renovated in 1929. Her grandmother turned the kitchen into a classroom, teaching the neighborhood how to read and encouraging them to vote.

The house remained in the Spears' family after Brumfield's grandparents passed away. It became a haven for family members trying to get ahead.

"My oldest son used to live here until he was able to buy his home," Brumfield said. "I had a niece to live here until she was able to buy her home, and that's how we help each other out."

Brumfield's youngest son just received an advanced degree in electrical engineering. He was living in the house, but was not there when it caught fire.

"We never wanted to sell the house. We only wanted to give it to the next generation. So it destroyed our history," she said.

Brumfield hopes to continue the tradition for her grandchildren.

"I want to be able to maybe rebuild for that next generation because it's very important to us that we pass on this property to the next generation."

Investigators say both homes are a total loss. They are valued at $65,000 and $160,000. Another home received minor damage.

This video was shot minutes after the explosion by Johnnie Domino, a neighbor.