BRIDGEPORT — The lack of working smoke detectors was blamed Wednesday for the deaths of a mother and her young daughter in a house fire that brought to 10 the number of such deaths in the city in less than a year.

Fire and police officials called the fire at a Ridge Avenue home in the South End a tragedy that could have been prevented if working smoke detectors had been in place, as required by law.

Thirty-year-old Ramona Holliday and her 2-year-old daughter, Trisha, were found dead in their fire-ravaged apartment early Wednesday.

Fire Department sources said the mother and daughter were found lying together on the floor of their second-floor bedroom.

Ramona Holliday's father, 59-year-old Javis Holliday Sr., was rescued from the building by Police Officer Barry Jones. He was in critical condition Wednesday night at Bridgeport Hospital.

Fire officials said the blaze erupted on the first floor of the Hollidays' two-floor apartment in the area of Javis Holliday's bedroom.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, officials said.

The fire broke out shortly after 6 a.m. in the Holliday apartment, an addition built onto the rear of a larger two-and-a-half story building at 81 Ridge Ave.

John J. Cotter Jr., of Nutmeg Adjusters of Bridgeport, said the Hollidays had lived in the building about a year and were not well known to neighbors.

Jose Echevaria, who bought the house three months ago after living there for five years, wouldn't comment on the lack of working smoke detectors.

"It's a terrible thing that happened," he said.

The Hollidays' apartment was gutted by the blaze. Later Wednesday, firefighters could be seen digging among the debris through a gaping hole in the side of the fire-charred addition.

Denise Vazquez, who lived with her four young children on the house's first floor, said she was getting her children ready for school when the fire started. "I heard screaming and everybody started running outside, everything happened so fast," she said. When she got outside, Vazquez said she could see the back of the building was engulfed in flames.

While the rear of the structure was a mass of charred wood, the white-and-brown front portion, with two large porches, appeared unscathed.

Assistant Fire Chief Bruce Elander said the two apartments in the front were not touched by fire and the tenants, including the building's owner, could return to them.

Only one family — Jeronima Flores, her husband, Victor, and son, Hector — were relocated by the American Red Cross.

Police said an officer stationed at the South End Sikorsky plant on strike patrol noticed a large plume of white smoke over the area near the Marina Village housing project.

The officer went to investigate the source of the smoke and discovered the burning Ridge Avenue house. He rushed to the rear door of the building and managed to reach in and pull Javis Holliday outside, police said. But the tremendous heat and smoke prevented him from going farther into the building.

Carlos Colon was asleep in his second-floor bedroom across the street when he was awakened by the smell of smoke.

"I ran over there and I saw lot of flames on the back of the building," he said. "I heard a man screaming and the police officer got him out, and then I ran to the front of the house and began knocking on all the doors and telling everybody to get out."

The deaths Wednesday brought to 10 the number of fire fatalities in the city in less than a year, with the deaths occurring in four fires where the dwellings lacked working smoke detectors.

The incident comes two days before the sentencing in Superior Court of the landlord of an Iranistan Avenue apartment house where a woman and her three children died in a fire last June.

The Iranistan Avenue landlord, 37-year-old Hai Pham, is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the deaths for failing to have smoke detectors in the building.

Cotter is offering 25 free smoke detectors to residents of Ridge Avenue in the aftermath of Wednesday's blaze.