As he arrived just before 3 a.m. to see two children and no parents outside, Rockford firefighter Greg Castronovo feared the worst.
"Unfortunately, we have stories like this every year where we lose people in fires, in house fires, and those are very preventable situations," Castronovo said.
After entering the home, fire crews found 37-year-old Deneen Jones in the living room unconscious. She was transported to Rockford Memorial, where she later died.
Castronovo then found a young boy downstairs and carried him outside to safety. Fire investigators believe the home's only smoke detector didn't have a battery, costing firefighters and residents precious seconds.
"I've seen a lot of devastation, a lot of sadness. I mean, everybody sees that, it's this profession and some of those things can be prevented, and this case, by not having a battery, that may have been a contributing factor," Castronovo said.
After the tragedy on Loomis Street, fire crews say other than smoke detectors being properly installed, it's also important to make sure each family has a safety plan, to make it outside, and safe.
"Once you're out of the building and you're safe, stay outside, have a meeting place for all members of the family. Meet there, when the Fire Department arrives, stay outside, have a meeting place so when Fire Department arrives you can identify what family member is where and that expedites us in getting them out of the building," Castronovo said.
And after Wednesday morning's deadly fire, firefighters plead for residents to be proactive in making sure their home's safety surroundings are up-to-date.
"It only takes one forgotten time to change a battery for an event like this to occur. Don't say to yourself after an incident, ‘I wish I would have changed that battery, I wish I have a smoke detector.’ Do it now if it's on your mind," Castronovo said.