PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As fire officials continue to investigate the cause of this morning’s deadly fire that took the lives of a Feltonville mother and her three children (see related story),  Philadelphia’s fire commissioner wants to make sure everyone that every home has working smoke alarms.

Fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers says the one smoke alarm found in the basement of the home of the 4800 block of Palethrope Street didn’t have a battery, and not having the early warning likely made the difference between life and death in this case.

“If you don’t get the early warning, fire can just trap you and take your life away,” Ayers told KYW Newsradio on Thursday afternoon.

The exact cause of the fire is not yet known, but Ayers says the vast majority of what is in your home is plastic — petroleum based — and gives off toxic gases when burned.  Furniture covered with microfiber fabrics ignites quickly, he adds, and so does the type of paneling found on every wall of the burned-out Feltonville home.

“The fire moves very fast when you have a wall covering like that,” the fire commissioner said.

If any city resident needs a smoke alarm, Ayers says, they can get one for free with a mere phone call.

“215-686-1176, which is our smoke alarm hotline.”

Call that number and arrange a time for firefighters to come out and install them, one on every level of your home.

Reported by Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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