HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Two South Mississippi families were forced to flee their burning homes in the wee hours of Friday morning. One fire was in in Gulfport. The other in DeLisle. In both cases, early warning from smoke detectors allowed the sleeping families to wake up and get out in time.
A few hours before Fabian Lizana's home on Kiln-Delisle road went up in flames he'd been enjoying his fireplace.
"I checked everything before I went to sleep. There was no fire burning, just ashes," said Lizana.
Ashes and rubble are all that's left of Lizana's home. The 60 year old tried unsuccessfully to put the blaze out himself after he was awakened by the smoke detector. Fire officials said had it not been for the detector, Lizana may not have made it out alive.
"You can't put a price tag on that early warning," said Harrison County Fire Marshal Pat Sullivan. "Being able to get out of the house before the smoke becomes so thick and toxic that it could actually overcome you and cause death itself. Just the smoke alone could cause death. To get out before the fire consumes the house or cuts off your escape route is just invaluable."
Fire officials said it is just as valuable that everyone in the family knows the fire escape plan.
"Understanding that you're not going to gather up all your belongings. You're going to gather up what you need to get out safely and get out of the house," Sullivan said. "Calling 911 immediately. Having an escape plan. Knowing what you're going to do if the smoke detector is going off. Knowing that all the family members know what to do."
Lizana said now he has no house, no insurance, and no idea what he'll do next.
"I have what's on me. That's about it," Lizana said. "I lost everything I had except my truck. I was able to get my truck from under the garage. And I've got myself, so that's a good thing."
Fabian Lizana said the fire destroyed all his clothes and shoes. If you are able to help please call (228) 363-5039.
Meanwhile, Gulfport firefighters are still trying to determine what started a blaze on Shoreline Drive as members of the Crawford family were asleep in their beds. Officials said five people fled the burning home around 2:30 am on Friday after the smoke detector went off.
Firefighters said it's important to have smoke detectors in every bedroom and in the hallways.