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Dual deadly fires singe spirit of neighbors, firefighters

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TWC News: Dual deadly fires singe spirit of neighbors, firefighters
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It was a tough day for all who knew families of those affected by Tuesday morning’s fatal fires, but it was also a tough day for those trying to help save their lives.

In one fire, on Chico Street in East Austin, fire crews worked to make several rescues. The fire quickly spread to a second home where crews were able to rescue four people, but later found the body of a 95-year-old woman.

In the second fire on Wagon Bend Trail, in Southeast Austin, two young boys, ages 5 and 7, died after an electrical malfunction in a vehicle parked outside of their converted garage bedroom ignited and the fire spread to the home. Five others were able to escape from the home.

"The father was going in and out with a paint mask, trying to get his kids, but they wouldn't let him inside and he was yelling out ‘They're in the garage, please help them,’" neighbor Denise Estrada said.

Estrada woke up to what she thought were gunshots Tuesday morning.

"I just heard screaming and popping," she said. "They're like so little, nice kids, and in a minute they're gone."

It was a sight no one wants to see, but firefighters had to tackle it twice Tuesday morning.

"Being able to remember multiple fatalities in multiple locations across the city at the same time, that's not something I can remember us having to deal with in the past," Battalion Chief Thayer Smith said.

But Smith said it’s a situation that hits home. He recalled the Christmas Eve fire in 2002 that killed three boys, and what he remembers as the last time firefighters dealt with such a tragedy.

"Certainly when you're dealing with children, it raises the stakes a little bit," Smith said.

According to him, there were no working smoke detectors in either of the homes that burned Tuesday morning. Fire crews plan to head out in the coming weeks to check homes in the areas of the two fires and educate neighbors about the importance of smoke detectors.

Fire officials say the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction in a 2001 Ford F150 parked in front of the home. The two boys lived in the converted garage directly behind the truck.

The particular model of truck has been the subject of a couple of recalls including a 2005 recall for a faulty cruise control switch that can overheat and create under hood fires, even when the vehicle is turned off.

Fire officials alerted YNN to the recall but said it's not immediately clear whether that malfunction was the cause of the fire.

Watch Austin Fire Department's full press conference on Tuesday morning's fatal fires in the video below.

TWC News: Dual deadly fires singe spirit of neighbors, firefighters
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