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DENVER — A safety ladder can make the difference between life and death when fire breaks out, but firefighters say most families don’t own one.

Firefighters have investigated three fires in the metro area in the past month where families where trapped on a second floor and died from flames or a fall.

Last month, Antoinette Duran lost her father and disabled brother when her parents’ house caught fire.

“Just knowing I can’t see my dad,” Duran said. “I can’t see my brother and I can’t talk to him.”

Duran now wishes her family would have had an escape plan to get out alive.

“That’s the hardest part,” she said. “I can’t hear their voices again. I can’t see them. … That is the hard part.”

Firefighters warn that everyone should have an escape plan. Denver Fire spokeswoman Melissa Taylor said it’s the one thing most people don’t think about until it is too late.

“A fire escape plan can make the difference between life and death,” she said.

FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers asked firefighters to help with an escape plan by testing three fire safety ladders. We bought three ladders, each one for less than $100 and tried using them.

  • Kidde KL-2S Two Store Ladder for $32.51
  • First Alert EL53W-2 24 Foot Ladder for $54.98
  • X-IT 2 Story ladder for $89.95

Firefighters rigged up a belay to ensure safety so we could climb out of a second-story window and test the ladder for setup and stability.

The Kiddie Ladder moved around some, but our reporter made it down. The ladder is a one-time use ladder that is in small print on the box.

First Alert’s ladder was heavier than the other two ladders and provided more stability. It was more stable with wider rungs for bare feet and its rubber backings clung to the brick wall of the house.

RELATED: Denver Fire Department’s house fire escape plan

The X-IT might have been the most expensive, but it’s the lightest if children will be setting up the ladder. It was also the hardest to climb down.

Taylor said it is always best to let the firefighters do the rescuing.

“You are going to be in a panic mode. Your life is potentially on the line so you’re not going to be thinking about throwing that lamp out a window,” she said.

That is why an emergency plan, smoke detectors and a ladder can save lives.

Duran’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help her mother, who was also injured in the fire that destroyed her home on Jan. 12.