Get Out Alive: How to survive a house fire

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 4, 2015)-- All month long, FOX59 is preparing you and your family to get out of dangerous situations alive. If your home caught fire, would you know how to escape? An average of seven people in the U.S. die each day in house fires.

It's a terrifying situation that you can survive if you have a plan.

February marked one year since a fire on North Olney Street killed Isabel Guerra's son Leo, her daughter-in-law Brandy and four grandchildren.

"It seemed like just yesterday that it happened," said Isabel Guerra, "Every night I think about them. I cry."

IFD investigators couldn't determine a cause of the fire, but they know there were no working smoke detectors inside the home.

"Having a working smoke alarm outside every residence is one of the most important things when it comes to prevention and escaping a burning home," said Captain Michael Pruitt, with the Wayne Township Fire Department.

That's one step to getting out alive, Pruitt said, the other is having a plan.

"We take it for granted that it's never going to happen in our home, and when it does it's chaos," he said.

The chaos is what FOX59 wanted to show you. So Captain Pruitt and FOX59's Kendall Downing headed out to the department's training facility to simulate a house fire.

The setup is what you'd see at home. The department shoots flames out of a make-shift bed. The smoke is vegetable oil based.

FOX59's Kendall Downing got in place and gave the signal.

It was hard for him to see past the smoke, but he quickly realized why firefighters preach about staying low during a fire.

"A little bit of distance can save your life in a situation like this," said Downing, "He's got a major fire going in the other room here, and it's hot. I'm going to stand up, and the smoke and the heat is really incredible, take your breath away incredible."

Within minutes, he got to the door and made his way down the stairs.

Here are tips to get out of a house fire alive:

  • Plan and practice, especially if you have a family. Pruitt said it's crucial your child knows not to hide in a fire. Set up a meeting place outside, where everyone knows where to go.
  • Touch a door before you open it. Pruitt said if you can't get out that way, put towels or blankets at the base of the door. Then, try to escape out a window.
  • Know the layout of your home. Pruitt said bathroom, interior, and exit doors often swing in. Closet doors open out.

With working smoke detectors and a plan, you can get out alive and avoid a tragedy that took six members of one family.

"Some people take for granted at times the family, but we're here and we've always been together," said Sandra Lopez, Leo Guerra's sister.

Firefighters say children as young as two are able to understand elements of fire safety, and you should talk to your children early about how to escape during a fire.