Miami-Dade homes with burglar bars persistent problem for firefighters

Many homes have security bars, although most aren't up to current state fire code

MIAMI – A persistent problem for firefighters are security bars, also known as burglar bars. Many homes in Miami-Dade County still have them, even though most are not up to current state fire code.

"It's just the mentality back in the day. People felt safe with these bars in the windows," said Miami-Dade Fire Lt. Arnold Piedrahita.

Some homeowners like Priscilla, who declined to give her last name for safety reasons, said the burglar bars were actually a selling point.

"I just really thought about safety. I'm a single mom. I have a 14-year-old son. So that's basically why I felt safe with them," she said.

Firefighters like Piedrahita would disagree.

"These bars do not have any type of mechanism or openings for the occupants to get out in case of a fire," he said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's training facility in Doral has a state-of-the-art complex built to simulate real-life fire situations. One building has windows fitted with burglar bars, so firefighters and recruits can practice how to cut and pry them open before making entry.

Piedrahita said every second dealing with burglar bars can cost lives.

According to state fire code, every bedroom in a home has to have a way outside that can be opened from the inside, which means welded or bolted bars are illegal.

Experts said if a homeowner still wants burglar bars for safety, there are quick-release varieties, as well as security screens.

"It's not a new story. It's an old story. But I just think we have to remind people of the potential dangers and hazards of having these bars and not having a way to open these bars from the inside in case of a fire," he said. "These houses are death traps in the event of a fire."

For more information about burglar bars, click here.

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