Luling woman launches fundraiser for father after devastating house fire

It could have been any given weekday, on any given year, but the early morning hours of Monday, June 5 earlier this summer will be forever etched into Lawrence Winchester’s mind.

Winchester, 62, now retired from his years working for a New Orleans area grocery wholesaler, awoke abruptly that morning around 3:30 a.m. to the sounds of alarms going off inside the duplex home he lived in on the 3100 block of Marais Street in New Orleans.

“I was sleeping, and then [suddenly] the smoke detectors were going off,” Winchester said, recalling his still vivid early morning jolt on June 5. “I woke up and the whole house was burning…I was in the back room of the house, so I managed to get out the back door; the house was full of smoke.”

After exiting the home, Winchester found himself trapped in the fenced rear yard of the property. A faulty gate lock initially prevented him from leaving the small rear yard, while he briefly watched in horror as his home of 10 years became engulfed in flames in front of him, smoke bellowing out from all sides. New Orleans firefighters soon arrived on the scene and were able to break him out of the rear yard, and out of harm’s way.

Another relative who lived next door on the other side of the duplex was also able to escape without harm, but both soon found themselves in the same predicament – without housing in those early morning hours, unexpectedly losing everything they owned in just a few minutes’ time.

Firefighters would later determine a lightning strike was to blame for what became a two-alarm fire. It was one of three such residential related fires striking the New Orleans area that evening, with damage so severe, local news channels even covered the fire to Winchester’s home.

Once the fire had been put out, not much remained. Winchester lost all of his belongings, photos and family heirlooms; virtually nothing he owned in the home was salvageable.
“It’s definitely been stressful,” Winchester’s daughter, Luling resident Tomeka Lewis said of how the fire has affected her father. “He’s older; he has health issues; he felt like ‘why did this have to happen to me.’ I tried to encourage him and let him know that things just happen.”

Having little in the way of backup resources and nowhere else to go, Winchester lived with his daughter and her family for a time. A couple of months after the fire, family members were able to assist him in securing a small one-room upstairs efficiency apartment. While grateful for the new accommodations, it has been difficult for Winchester to climb the apartment stairs each day on account of his nagging ankle and leg issues.

Lewis recently started a GoFundMe account on behalf of her father, in an attempt to help him replace some of the items he lost, and help him get back on solid footing, financially.

“It’s made a big change in my life,” Winchester said of the June 5 house fire, an incident that has uprooted him from his former home.

For more information on Lewis’ GoFundMe fundraising efforts on behalf of her father Lawrence Winchester, visit her fundraising page at under the title “Restoring My Father’s Life After a House Fire.”


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