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Neighbors tried to save elderly woman, children in Northside house fire

"I just saw the flames coming from behind the house and I ran to get my children and we got the fire hose and called 911."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A grandmother is dead, and her two grandchildren are in critical condition after a house fire Tuesday night on the Northside.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

RELATED: Elderly woman killed, 2 children critically hurt in Northside house fire

"That was very hard trying to get through that burglary bar door just wasn’t giving," neighbor Tamara Reed said. 

Reed lives next door to where the fire broke out in  the 1500 block of 21st Street West.

“I was watching television, but I kept smelling smoke coming from somewhere, which isn’t that uncommon in this area because people burn stuff in this area at night," Reed remembered. "But it kept getting stronger and stronger." 

She says she looked out her window and noticed her neighbor’s lights were off, which she said is unusual.

“I got outside and walked across the street," Reed said. "I just saw the flames coming from behind the house and I ran to get my children and we got the fire hose and called 911."

She says her family tried their hardest to get the family out of the home, but the smoke, fire and the burglary bar doors were holding them back.

“Leave that to us. That's what we do," Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers said. "What we see is when people go into a burning structure, they take one breath in that super-heated air or smoke, and they collapse. And now were dealing with other victims."

Powers said they have tools for burglary bars and can open it in seconds.

If an unexpected event happened like a house fire and you have burglary bars on the doors, Powers said you need to be able to get outside quickly.

RELATED: Yes, closing doors can help limit the spread of a fire and save lives

“At the end of the day if you are in a fire, you are going to struggle to either get your key or find a slot to stick your keys in," Powers explained. "So you should have a tumbler lock on the inside and a key lock on the outside."

Powers said it’s important that families should have an escape plan in case there is a house fire.

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