OUACHITA PARISH, La. (KTVE/KARD) — The State Fire Marshal for Louisiana says they have determined the cause of an apartment fire that killed a West Monroe man was an accident.

According to the fire marshal, they were called around 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 15th, to an apartment fire in the 100 Block of Alexander Road in West Monroe. When the firefighters arrived they found one unit affected by what they say is the remnants of a fire that seems to have extinguished itself.

Firefighters say they searched the unit and found a male victim in the bedroom. Firefighters say the official identification and the official cause of death are still pending with the Ouachita Parish Coroner’s Office, they believe the victim is the 59-year-old man who lived in the apartment.

According to firefighters, when they assessed the scene, they found the fire began in the kitchen and was caused by unattended cooking on the stove. The fire investigators say neighbors smelled smoke at three different times before the fire crews arrived on scene. Firefighters tell us the residents reported the issue to property managers the second time they experienced the smell, but no source could be found. People reported the smell of smoke again in the afternoon which led the property managers to enter the unit in question and discover the extinguished fire and victim.

Firefighters tell us they were able to find the smoke alarm in the home, but was not in working order. They tell us the batteries had been removed.

“This is truly a tragic situation in that had that smoke alarm been working, not only would it have quickly alerted the resident to the fire danger in his kitchen, but it also would have alerted his neighbors, who possibly could have helped save the victim if he couldn’t save himself,” said State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning.

Firefighters say a working smoke alarm is a proven tool to alert residents to a fire danger in order to escape safely. The State Fire Marshal’s Operation Save-A-Life partners with local fire departments to install smoke alarms for free for families that need them most. To learn more about Operation Save-A-Life, or to register for a smoke alarm installation, click here.