Two young children, ages three and four, are dead after their mother left them home alone while she went to get her hair done. Ciarria Johnson left her daughter and son in her Louisiana residence for hours before learning that her home was engulfed in flames and returning home. Reportedly, prior to being transported to Morehouse Parish jail, Johnson was taken to Brentwood Psychiatric Hospital for evaluation.
The cause of the fire was traced by fire investigators to two gas heaters. Scattered near the heater were flammable materials that caused the single-family home to burn down. Four-year old Ta’shae and three-year-old Clifton lost their lives because there was no one around to help get them out of the burning wood-framed house. Neighbors say they are saddened by this tragic turn of events.
The 21-year-old first told authorities she made arrangements with a nearby neighbor to watch the children; this was later found to be a lie. According to Brant Thompson, state fire marshal deputy, the woman slipped out to a nearby hair salon and left the children with no authority figure to protect them. The mother only returned to her Pruitt Street home after being contacted about the blaze.
Reportedly, Johnson left the home around 1:00 p.m., leaving two gas space heaters on. Materials too close to one of the heaters set fire to the residence around 4:00 p.m. The mother was contacted and returned home, but locked herself in her car claiming she would do something harmful to herself. After making such threats, the woman, who has been charged with two counts of negligent homicide, had to be taken to a psychiatric hospital to be evaluated.
It is common to use space heaters during the winter months despite the potential dangers. Experts have warned against plugging heaters into the wrong outlet, using an extension cord or connecting more than one into outlets that feed into the same unit. These are recipes for danger.
There are safety tips to follow by anyone that chooses to use a space heater to help provide heat during cold seasons: 1.) Prior to using a space heater it is important to ensure that smoke detectors are present and in working order, 2.) Space heaters should be placed on a level, non-flammable, hard floor surface which is out of high traffic areas, 3.) Never place space heaters on countertops, furniture or carpet, 4.) The heater should have a safety switch, be clean and in good condition, 5.) Space heaters must be at least three feet away from combustibles within the home, 6.) Heaters should be safely away from children and pets to avoid serious burns or shocks, 7.) Never use multiple plugs or extension cords, 8.) Space heaters should never be unattended, 9.) Heaters should be unplugged before going to bed or leaving the room and 10.) Older models must be replaced with newer models. They do not last forever.
Although a convenient way to quickly heat up a room, space heaters can be dangerous if used improperly. According to the Harvard University Environmental Health and Safety Group, they cause 6,000 emergency room visits and 25, 000 fires in homes each year. During the months of December through February, space heaters have been identified as the leading cause of fires.
On Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, space heaters, along with parental irresponsibility, caused the death of two young children who were left home alone. Ta’shae and Clifton, ages four and three, were the victims of a house fire after their mother, Ciarria Johnson, left them at home with two space heaters running while she went to get her hair done. The mother has been released from the hospital and charged.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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