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'It's just heartbreaking' | Firefighters beg residents to be safe after another death

12 people have died in San Antonio house fires so far this year, and officials say planning is essential.

SAN ANTONIO — Family members say 66-year-old Claudine Martinez was a fiercely independent woman who loved her pets with passion.

They say when her north side home on Rilla Vista caught fire early Monday morning, she tried to make it out, but firefighters found her body just inside a doorway. They believe she was able to save some of her pets, but she may have died while trying to rescue one of her cats. 

A relative says a protective German Shepherd dog who refused to leave her side was found beside her, a victim of the smoke as well.

The medical examiner has not released her name or her cause of death, by fire officials say it appears as though Martinez was overcome by smoke.

If her cause of death is related to the fire, fire officials say she would be the 12th person this fiscal year to die in a house fire.

"It's just heartbreaking to be on the scene of another incident of this type," said SAFD spokesman Woody Woodward.

Woodward said in an effort to save lives, they are advocating a program they call SCAN, which is so important, they've given it a dedicated website.

Credit: SAFD

"Investigators are telling me that it appears this fire started with an air conditioning unit that was connected to a long extension cord, piled in an unsafe manner underneath a bed and it's very sad, that at least with our preliminary information, that this could be yet another preventable fire," Woodward said.

Woodward said there are four key components in the SCAN program, the first of which is making sure every home has working smoke detectors.

"We're begging residents of San Antonio, please, please, make a SCAN of your house. Make sure your smoke detectors are working," he said.

Because many seniors have issues with mobility, the second facet of the program is a clear path of escape. 

"Clear a pathway so you can get out of the home," he said.

Fire Chief Charles Hood speaks to groups of seniors regularly, telling them that he often urged his own mother to get rid of clutter.

Saying the retired teacher had a house full of ancient school supplies, Hood tells elders that the extra material can be a trip hazard, as well as a heavy fuel load that puts firefighters at increased risk.

"Make sure you have an action plan to escape your home in case of a fire and the final part of our SCAN initiative, the letter N is for check on neighbors," Woodward said.

Firefighters said an action plan may be most important in any home with children.  The fire website has a special section with videos created especially for youngsters that explains the steps involved in getting out alive and then being able to meet up with family members at a designated spot.

"We're begging you. We don't want to see another incident like this," Woodward said.

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