Edgard family keeps faith after surviving devastating blaze

Published 12:07 am Saturday, April 2, 2016

EDGARD — When Denise Isom heard the smoke alarm beeping in the middle of the June night last year, her first thought was the device’s batteries were going bad.

Sheral Isom’s pride and joy was a wall that featured every member of her family who had graduated from high school or college. All of the photos were destroyed by the fire. (Photo courtesy of Denise Isom)

Sheral Isom’s pride and joy was a wall that featured every member of her family who had graduated from high school or college. All of the photos were destroyed by the fire. (Photo courtesy of Denise Isom)

“I thought, ‘I’ll have to get Daddy to replace the batteries,’” she said.

Already having trouble sleeping, but without her usual nighttime sleep aid, Denise dozed off again.

The smoke alarm continued its annoying beep.

Eventually, Denise left the bedroom in her parents’ Edgard home to see what was going on.

“I got down the hall to the door of the living room, and all I could see was orange. I could feel the heat on my face,” Denise said.

It was everyone’s worst nightmare.

The living area of the house was fully engulfed in flames, and her family was still inside.

Daughter Jazmine was asleep in her bedroom next to Denise’s room.

Mom Sheral was in the bathtub just off her bedroom. Denise had no idea where her dad, Murphy, “June,” was.

“Normally, he would sleep on the sofa until about 2 a.m.,” Denise said. “He wasn’t there, though. Once I got outside, I realized he wasn’t out there either. He was still inside. I tried to go back in, but the smoke was too thick. It was pitch, pitch black. I couldn’t breathe and I fell to my knees and crawled back out.”

Denise ran to her neighbor’s house and rang the doorbell.

“Their doorbell, they said, had been broken for two months, but it rang that night,” Denise said. “They heard it.”

Moments later, Cindy and Byron “Mcnut” Thomas came to the house and found June trying to push through the window in his bedroom. Cindy and Byron pulled the 6-foot-6. 74-year-old the rest of the way out.

Sheral, meanwhile, had wrapped a bath towel around herself. She had time to grab her sleep shirt off her bed but not enough time to put it on before running down the hall and out the kitchen door.

Miraculously, no one in the family was injured, although June did require treatment for smoke inhalation. Investigators told the family the fire began in an electrical outlet that had nothing plugged in it.

“They said, some fires, they just don’t know what happened,” Sheral said. “But they said electrical fires are the worst kinds of fires.”

The house was a total loss, but not the Isoms’ faith. There are a lot of “ifs” in their minds, though.

“If I had my sleep aid — but both dollar stores were closed that night,” Denise said. “If I had taken it, I might not have heard that smoke alarm going off. If Daddy had been asleep on that sofa in the living room, he would not be here today.”

Sheral is already a fire survivor, having been badly burned in 1990 when an outdoor cooking fire exploded.

“I knew God wouldn’t let me burn twice,” Sheral said.

River Parishes community members followed the fire and helped take care of the Isom family. Within hours, friends, family and strangers were inundating them with donations of clothing, household items and even money as the word spread through social media.

Denise’s son Donovan, the former Destrehan quarterback, was attending the University of Utah and Utes fans from across the country pitched in to help. Donovan would later transfer to Southeastern Louisiana University.

“From everywhere,” Denise said. “It was amazing.”

Within six months, the Isom family was back in their refurbished home with all new belongings, except for two surviving artworks — one of an angel and one of the Last Supper.

“I need people to know how awesome God is,” Sheral said. “There were four people in that house that night and four people got out of that house alive that night. If you believe God has everything, then He will take care of it. I am grateful.”

By Lori Lyons