Mar 152010

EL PASO, TexasCindy Chavarria escaped a massive fire in her Pinon Trails apartment building with only a few scratches, a feat not possible without a special smoke detector.

“She wouldn’t have been able to hear anything. She wouldn’t have known anything. She’s really grateful,” said Jazmin Espinoza, who translated her sister’s sign language.

Chavarria is deaf and lives alone. She said her smoke detector, equipped for the hearing impaired, alerted her to the fire.

“She first noticed it when she saw the fire alarm flashing,” said Espinoza.

Chavarria opened her door, saw the shooting flames and jumped through her second floor window, in fear for her life.

“She was really scared,” said Espinoza. “She didn’t know what to think. She was like… ‘I don’t know if I was going to make it out on time.’ She didn’t know what to do.”

Lt. Mario Hernandez said it took more than 15 units and 50 firefighters to put out the flames. The apartment building, which had eight units, was fully engulfed when fire crews arrived.

“The fire station is about a block away,” said Hernandez. “So that tells you how quickly the fire spread.”

All of the residents made it out safely. Firefighters did rescue a dog trapped inside one unit. Two other dogs that were trapped inside a first floor apartment died.

Freddy Martinez, disaster services manager for the American Red Cross El Paso area, said some residents had guests in town so the agency will help around 35 people all together.

Martinez siad the apartment manager had agreed to place residents in other units within the complex.

As for Chavarria, she thanked the apartment manager for originally suggesting the special smoke detector that saved her life.

“I wish to tell the deaf community that that fire alarm is very important,” said Chavarria. “And that’s why I have one, and I think all homes should have one.”

Note: Check with your local fire department to see if there is a program for free or low cost smoke detectors.  See the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing website for information about Virginia’s law on visual smoke detectors at

Thanks to Dena Richardson, KFOX News Reporter,  3/6/10 and NVRC.