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Families Grateful for Red Cross After Fires Destroy Their Homes

Home Fire Safety
The American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and most of these emergencies are home fires.

The most common disaster threat to families in this country is not a blizzard, hurricane or tornado. It’s a fire in someone’s home. The American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and most of these emergencies are home fires.

When a fire hits someone’s home, it can be dangerous and devastating. The family involved may lose everything they own. The Red Cross responds to fires all over the country, providing shelter, vouchers for food and clothing and a shoulder to lean on.

Several years ago, Barbara Ehrentreu’s Stamford, CT home was condemned after a fatal fire in her neighbor’s apartment. She was extremely traumatized by this fire and the Red Cross provided she and her family with housing and food, as well as counseling. “Without the Red Cross, I honestly don’t know what we would have done,” she said. “Just their reaching out to us was so helpful.”

Bernadette Jackson and her family lost their Brooklyn, N.Y. home to a fire. Away from home when the blaze occurred, by the time she arrived on the scene, the house was gone. The Red Cross provided her family of 11 with shelter, warm clothes and food. It took them until 3:00 a.m., but the Red Cross was eventually able to find a hotel that could accommodate all 11 of them. The Red Cross also helped them find temporary accommodations until they could find a new home.

Jennifer Robinson’s Wilkes-Barre, PA home was destroyed by an electrical fire. When the blaze broke out, she only had time to grab her five young children children and get out of the house. The Red Cross responded almost immediately, providing a hotel for the family until they found a new home. The Red Cross also provided vouchers for the family to purchase new clothes and necessities. “If it wasn’t for the Red Cross, we’d have nothing,” Robinson said.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO Fortunately, most home fires can be prevented. Homeowners should check for items that can be hazardous such as candles and space heaters – common items that can turn dangerous very quickly.

To help avoid a fire in the home, there are steps someone can take now:

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as sources of heat or stoves.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area. Put a smoke alarm inside every bedroom. Test them regularly and install a new battery if there is no noise when testing. Install new batteries every year. Get new smoke alarms every ten years.
  • Develop a fire escape plan for the household and practice it at least twice a year. Everyone should know two ways to escape from every room and you should designate a safe place to meet outside the home in case of a fire.
  • HOW TO HELP You can help people affected by small disasters like a fire in someone’s home to victims of larger emergencies like tornadoes, floods and other crises by making a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. You can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your donation helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters.

    Tags: Home Fires.
    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.