FORT WORTH -- Winter has not been kind in so many ways.

'It's been a tough season for us,' said Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman Tim Hardeman. 'Unfortunately, our outcomes have been tragic.'

Fort Worth averages six deaths in fires a year, but as of February 7, had already suffered five. Two additional fatalities happened near the end of 2013, bringing the total to seven deaths this winter.

'We've experienced the loss of a mother and child in two separate incidents,' Hardeman said.

A mother and daughter died on Market Avenue in north Fort Worth January 24. A mother and son died in south Fort Worth on West Bolt Thursday. Both houses were small, old, in low-income neighborhoods, and firefighters found no evidence of working smoke detectors at either site.

'We wish none of them had happened, but we certainly don't want to see any more happen,' Hardeman said. 'We're looking at how we can enhance our programs.'

After a deadly fire, the fire department will always canvasses the neighborhood where it happened, offering free smoke detectors to people who have none. They also replace batteries and do tests to make sure detectors that are already in place are in working order.

Hardeman said they are finding 50 to 60 percent of the homes they enter do not have detectors.

Anita Orta lives next door to the home on Market Avenue where a mother and daughter died. She had one broken smoke detector, and one with no batteries when firefighters came by.

'I told them, 'I ain't got no money!' But they said, 'No ma'am, it's free!'' she said. 'It's hard. People have children, they're laid off, it's hard for them to get something like that. They have to make sure they have food for their kids on the table. I understand all that.'

She was appreciative of what the department did. 'I was real happy they came by,' she said.

Hardeman said the department is working to come up with new ways to get detectors in more homes.

'Fire prevention is also part of our mission statement. Typically, people are more apt to listen to our message when they are aware of something like [a fatality],' he said. 'That's just human nature.'


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