Woman dies two weeks after escaping house fire in Deer Park

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- A Deer Park family is warning others about the dangers of a house fire.

The Mahaffey family lost their wife and mother Debbie Mahaffey two weeks after she made it out of their rental home that caught fire.

"If I could tell her, you know, I'd be like, 'stay out, don't go back in,'" said Kara Mahaffey, Debbie's daughter.

Debbie was a beloved wife, daughter and friend with two children and two stepchildren.

She was a special education aide at La Porte High School, where her youngest son is a senior.

Debbie was at home alone with the family's four dogs on March 7, when a fire broke out.

Debbie made it out safely, but neighbors who witnessed the fire told Eyewitness News that she kept running back inside to save the pets.

"She didn't know at all what she was doing," explained Kara. She says it was the attempt to save the dogs that killed her mother two weeks later.

The family tells us Debbie was alert and able to speak on the scene.

"She appeared okay, other than maybe some smoke and oxygen problems that we hoped would clear up. But it went from a small minor problem to a full blown disaster," said Debbie's husband, Kevin Mahaffey.

She was taken to the hospital for observation, but never made it out.

The family says her throat was swollen and she had respiratory injuries from breathing in hot smoke, but what they say really shocked them was learning about the toxins she breathed in.

"They were concerned about cyanide. And we were like, 'How did she get cyanide? We don't have cyanide in our house. What are you talking about?' And they said old furniture burning gives off cyanide," said Kara.

The Deer Park Asst. Fire Chief tells us the smoke from a fire can be more deadly than the heat from the flames.

"We just see smoke as a plume, but inside that smoke there is a lot of chemicals," said Chief Phillip Arroyo.

He explained the chemicals released from burning curtains, carpets and sofas include carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.

"Even people at the hospital staff, and other families we met with, none of them even knew about the dangers of breathing in the fumes from burning furniture. Nobody knew," said Kevin.

This family doesn't want her death to be in vain. They want you to remember if you're in a fire get out and stay out.
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