Two preschool children in were killed in a house fire in the community of Bastrop, Louisiana, earlier this week, while their mother left them home alone to get her hair done, USA Today is reporting.
Ciarra Johnson, 21, has been charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of Tashae Thompson Johnson, 4, and Clifton Thompson Johnson, 3.
State Fire Marshal Deputy Chief Brant Thompson said in a statement, via NBC News, that although the specifics of how the children died in the fire, one thing is certain: they were left home alone.
“While investigators of the state fire marshal’s office are still piecing together their findings in the tragic fire that occurred on Pruett Street, one thing is certain: Ciarria Johnson … left her children unattended for hours as she was having her hair styled.”
Firefighters were notified of the house fire around 3:00 P.M. on Monday. When they arrived, they found Johnson locked her in her car. She later told investigators that she had arranged for someone to watch her kids while she had her hair done.
Investigators, however, do not believe that she did any such thing.
“Our investigation determined that she made no such arrangements. That’s what is so disturbing to us. There were family members around she could have called, but she just didn’t bother.”
Investigators also claim that, although her hair appointment was at 1:30, Johnson had left her children in the home alone since 10:00 a.m., and that she only returned home after she learned about the fire.
The cause of the fire appears to have been a gas space heater in the living room in close proximity to flammable materials.
This tragedy underscores the dangers of space heaters, especially in homes with small children (and of course, it goes without saying that preschool children should never be left unattended). According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CSPC), space heaters account for 9,900 residential fires per year and about 190 deaths per year, compared to 5,800 fires per year and about 20 deaths per year directly attributable to central heating.
If you must use a space heater, the CSPC warns, keep it on a hard, non-flammable surface, and never leave it on when you’re asleep or near a sleeping person.
As for the Louisiana mother who left her children to die in a fire while she got her hair done: she will be taken into custody later this week.