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Wheelchair-Bound Woman Burned In McKinney Apartment Fire

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COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - A Thursday morning house fire has left a McKinney woman with burns on more than 90-percent of her body. The woman, who is in her 70s, uses a wheelchair and was sitting in it when it caught fire.

At last check, firefighters said the woman, who has not been identified, was being treated in the ICU at the Parkland Hospital burn unit. Fortunately, no one else was hurt in the fire, but neighbors say they're worried about their safety.

The fire started around 6:00 a.m. at the Saxon Woods Apartments in the 4400 block of W. Eldorado Parkway. The first floor unit where the woman lived remained taped off Thursday afternoon, as fire investigators continued to look into what caused the blaze.

Diane Bizzell lives across the hall, and she worries the tragedy may have revealed ongoing danger. "I view this as very much a public safety... personal and public safety issue."

Ginger Blasingame lives upstairs from the elderly woman and said the only sign of trouble she heard was yelling before a firefighter came to her door to tell her they were evacuating the building. "It's scary, very scary. The thing that is concerning for all of us in the building is that no alarms went off, so we heard nothing."

Residents explained that the apartment complex has a hard-wired fire alarm system that is designed to activate in all of the apartments, if the alarm in one unit goes off.

Bizzell says a fire marshal interviewed her and asked if she and other tenants heard alarms. "And I asked the fire marshal that very question specifically – 'Isn't this supposed to go off if there is a fire in the building?' and he said, 'yes.'"

A spokesperson for the McKinney Fire Department would not confirm that any problems with the alarm system were found, but the investigation continues.

Neighbors like Bizzell are anxious to find out if the alarm system malfunctioned. "Frankly the fire was probably out or darn near out by the time I knew there was a fire. And it's, what, 10 feet from my door? Which is kind of creepy."

A manager at the apartment complex said someone from their corporate, parent-company in Atlanta would respond to requests for comment.  This is the statement CBS 11 received in its entirety:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and her family during this incredibly difficult time. We are working diligently with the authorities as they investigate today's tragic accident. At this time, the Fire Department believes the fire started due to a combination of cigarettes and an oxygen tank. The fire was contained within the victim's unit, and we are thankful that no other residents were injured. The safety and security of our residents is of the utmost importance to us, and we always work to ensure our safety systems meet or exceed all applicable safety requirements. 
When asked about the combination of cigarettes and an oxygen tank described by Saxon Woods, a spokesperson for the McKinney Fire Department would only say that they, "Have not released any such statement. The fire remains under investigation."

(©2015 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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