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Image result for hidalgo county fire marshalby Sydney Hernandez, CBS 4 News – Monday, August 6th 2018

Hidalgo County has seen several house fires in the last two weeks. Two of those were fatal, leaving four people dead in Mission and McAllen

Fire experts say some of them could have been prevented with a simple smoke detector.

“This is toxic smoke, this is furniture that’s burning, paints, all kinds of chemicals in it. Three, four breaths and you’re unconscious,” said John Franz, Hidalgo County Fire Investigator, who adds it’s common to respond to fires at homes with no smoke alarms.

That’s a problem that can quickly turn deadly.

“It’s extremely common. It’s a rarity for us to see a house with working smoke detectors in the county,” said Franz.

Experts say a common reason people don’t have an alarm is because they think they’ll smell the smoke when the fire starts.

“What people don’t understand is that when they’re asleep, their sense of smell is non-existent,” said Franz.

Many local fire stations offer free smoke alarms. If not, they can run from $5-$35 at the store, a small price to pay in exchange for your life.

Once you have them, be sure to change the batteries at least once a year.

“If it starts beeping, don’t hush it. Change the batteries, even if it’s not, check it.”

Experts say another reason for fires is using power strips or extension cords incorrectly.

“A lot of times, especially in Hidalgo County, we see a lot of people that have window air conditioned units. Those require a lot of energy, so make sure you have it plugged in the wall directly, not into a power strip,” said Franz.

Fire experts also suggest making a plan with your family if a fire does break out, such as an escape route and a place to meet outside.