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Firefighters On Safety Mission After Elderly Woman Dies In Blaze

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM)Dallas firefighters were on the streets of Oak Cliff today, working to save lives after an elderly woman was killed in a house fire.

Firefighters fanned out from area fire stations to educate residents and answer safety questions and concerns. The first responders knocked on doors and talked about things like where to put a key to your deadbolt or burglar bars. Ultimately, the hope is to prevent getting another call like the one that came in reporting a blaze and trapped person at the home of Johnnye T. Hughes.

Dallas House Fire Victim
(credit: Johnnye Hughes)

It's been more than 24 hours since Hughes home caught fire and she became trapped on her porch. The area was encased by security bars. After the death of the 81-year-old woman many neighbors shook their heads and asked how they we supposed to protect themselves from burglars, and yet not be injured or die in their house if it catches fire.

Almost every home in Hughes' neighborhood has some form of safety/burglar bars covering the windows and doors. Normally after a fatal fire, firefighters will go into neighborhoods to check things like smoke alarms. But today, the first responders inspected locks, suggested places to put keys so they can be found in a life or death situation, relayed information about safety latches that allow people to open safety bars from the inside, and handed out pamphlets about burglar bar safety.

"We certainly don't want to tell people not to have burglar bars, but we want to educate them on some of the safety precautions associated with them," said Jason Evans with Dallas Fire Rescue. "And if they're going to have them, make sure they're going to have the quick release hatches on the inside."

Gertrude Graham lives in the same neighborhood as Hughes and today's effort by DFR was an opportunity for her to get escape route assistance and the smoke detectors she didn't have. "It might sound kind of minor. I have a TV stand, a heavy one that's against the door in the garage, and since I've closed in the front of the garage we're gonna remove that from there. So, we'll have those two entrances, those doors, that back one on the side and then we've got two front doors – so we won't get stuck in here."

Randall Cyrus lived next door to Hughes for 15 years and watched helplessly as she perished. He said he knows others in his neighborhood are in danger because of their burglar bars. "They're not safe anymore. They can't help you.  We lost a good neighbor, because we couldn't get her out of the house and it hurts."

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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