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Man Escapes Death in Early Morning House Fire

ROCKFORD – A Rockford man is lucky to be alive today after waking up to find his house on fire. It happened on the city's southeast side.
ROCKFORD – Smoke streams out of this house at 1201 15th street early Tuesday morning. Fire crews fortunate the one man inside made it out safely.  That's because there weren't any working smoke detectors inside. The man simply woke up because he smelled smoke.  Rotolo is Rockford’s fire investigator, “He said he was very fortunate. He said he was gonna go buy a lottery ticket tonight.  I said, 'yeah, you better go buy two of them.'"

The fire started near the furnace.  Rotolo says it's a common problem this time of year, “We recommend that you have a three foot perimeter around all heating devices. A furnace is very important to have that spacing."

When the fire department arrived on scene, the house was already up in flames and Captain Kirt Croutcher says that wasn't the only problem, “We did have an issue with a frozen hydrant. It did delay our supply lines."

But Rotolo assures that didn't slow down their response, “Our trucks are actually equipped with 500 gallons of water. So before they even have to hook into a hydrant, they can start putting water on the fire."

The Red Cross was on site to help and executive director Lisa Lasala says their response is different in the extreme cold, “Many times people leave their homes without shoes, not appropriate clothing to be in the cold. So we dispatch our emergency response vehicle where they can stay warm."

Since Stateliners are trying to stay warm in the dangerous conditions, Lasala says that's actually caused more fires, “Last year we served 94 families and this year we've served 117...people are really using space heaters more to keep warm in their homes, and that's just a really dangerous option."

Rotolo says there was $70,000 worth of damage and that the house is near a total loss.  He also says this fire should be a lesson to everyone:  don't gamble with your life, check your smoke detectors.
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