CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Everyday, firefighters put their lives on the line to save others. But their dangerous job becomes even more treacherous when hurricane shutters are bolted onto windows, blocking emergency exits.
"It's hard to enter a structure if these shutters are in place. It's also harder to exit the structure if these are in place for an emergency," said Paul Marzella with the Cape Coral Fire Department.
Look no further than a fire in Southeast Cape Coral in October of 2012 where firefighters had to battle flames and shutters.
"It just holds the heat and smoke inside and it's bad for the homeowners to try and get out and limits ways to get out of the home," said Battalion Chief Christopher Cox.
But take a trip down any street in southwest Florida and you'll find houses with their hurricane shutters bolted onto their windows. Even though there's no storm imminent. Firefighters stress you need two ways out of your house during an emergency. So if shutters are blocking your bedroom windows, that limits an exit and entry point during a fire.
Back at the 2012 fire, the home ended up being a total loss. Though, luckily all of the residents escaped safely.
Across the state, similar fires have had tragic results. According to a petition filed with the Consumer Products Safety Commission, 13 people have been killed in Florida in the last 20 years because they couldn't escape from their homes. Their shutters were blocking their exit. According to the group, at the time of the fire, no storm was imminent.
"They're are real dangers when they're on a home and people are in occupying the home," Marzella said.
For a research paper filed with the federal government, a Captain with Indian River County Fire Rescue, surveyed firefighters across the state. More than half of them reported instances where hurricane shutters limited the exit for people inside the home.