Burglar bars on windows play factor in two separate fatal house fires

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POSTED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 5:40pm

UPDATED: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 11:52am

The McAllen fire department is investigating a deadly house fire that claimed the life of a woman.

This is the first fire fatality for the city of McAllen since 2010, but it falls a day after a deadly house fire in San Juan involving a male victim.

An elderly woman was killed in her condo when a fire broke out this morning at approximately 12:30 a.m.  The residence is located on the 3600 block of Gumwood Avenue, just off of Ware Road in McAllen.

A police unit on patrol in the area reported the blaze.

"We made entry, we had to force our way in because of the burglar bars," explained Rafael Balderas, McAllen fire chief.  "In our primary search, we did encounter a deceased female inside the house."

The woman's identity is not being released at this time, nor the exact cause of the fire.  Investigators do believe that the fire was accidental.

The woman had bars on her bedroom window which kept her from escaping.  Officials suspect that she went to another part of the home but was unable to get out in time.

"We did save the dog, the dog was in the bedroom," said Balderas.  "If she would've actually stayed in the bedroom, she had a better chance of surviving.  She probably came out of the bedroom, went into the kitchen, and she got trapped in there."

This marks the second fatal house fire in less than 24 hours in which burglar bars on the windows are a factor in preventing the residents from escaping.

San Juan fire chief Tirso Garza confirms that the male victim in yesterday's house fire probably would have survived if he did not have burglar bars on his window.

"They need to realize that you know, they can't get in and same thing is that you can't get out," Balderas explained.  "So in emergencies like this, it makes it very difficult for you to get out, especially when seconds count when you have a fire."

These burglar bars are not in violation of any fire hazard rules.  In fact, the fire department has no authority in restricting home owners from installing burglar bars to their windows.

Chief Balderas says it is critical that families have fire escape plans for their homes, especially if burglar bars are a part of your residence.  It is also advised not to have bars on every window in your home in case of a fire.

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