MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul firefighters say they almost had their third fatality of the season Sunday.

Darlene Centeno was sleeping when a fire erupted in her St. Paul basement. She was able to escape by crawling through her small bedroom window. But firefighters say if she was bigger, that wouldn’t have worked.

Only one of her six pups got out of the fire that started from a hookah pipe, and Centeno barely made it herself.

“I had a water bottle in my room and wet one of my shirts and put it on my nose so I could breathe a bit better, broke my window and got out, called 911,” Centeno sad.

St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard says it could have ended much worse.

“She was small enough and able-bodied enough to get out of that window, but most of us aren’t,” Zaccard said.

So the Fire Marshal’s using that fire as a teaching moment. Zaccard says old houses, like many of the ones in St. Paul, have basements that were built for furnaces, but when people make them into bedrooms, they need to know there are rules.

“Any room used for sleeping has to have at least two ways out. One has to be a door, second one can be a door or an escaped-sized window,” Zaccard said.

Depending on how new construction is, windows have to be at least 5 square feet — large enough for people to crawl out and firefighters to crawl in.

“It’s not the cheapest window that you can buy, it costs some money, but it’s there for a reason,” Zaccard said, adding it’s an investment in survival.

So this goes for any sleeping room in a house basement through 4th floor. Zaccard says make sure windows aren’t nailed or painted shut.


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