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Red Cross Responds to Home Fires amid Prolonged Cold

Home Fire Safety
Take a minute to review safety tips that will help prevent a fire in your home.

With freezing temperatures and even lower wind chills throughout much of the country, it is important families and individuals remain vigilant in practicing home fire safety. The Red Cross has been busy responding to home fires throughout this cold spell, sending volunteers to the scene of the fire at all hours of the day and night to help those affected.

RED CROSS RESPONDS IN NEW JERSEY When Eliza Espinal looked out her kitchen window late Thursday evening, she spotted flames covering the ceiling of her neighbor’s living room. Espinal and her husband rushed to wake their nine-year-old son Chris, and his 2-year-old sister Neishly.

Espinal quickly grabbed some clothes from the children’s laundry hamper and her daughter’s shoes from the living room when she noticed that the fire had rapidly engulfed her neighbor’s living room. The family fled their home in their sleepwear.

“I don’t have anything,” Espinal said. “My son doesn’t have shoes. No shoes, no clothes, nothing. My daughter either.” Their home was heavily damaged by the fire.

The family spent the night in a Red Cross shelter opened by the Northern New Jersey chapter. Espinal is grateful that they are all safe.

“Thank God we were awake,” Espinal said. “My husband and I were just thinking about going to sleep – I can’t imagine what might have happened if the fire was later while we were sleeping.”

Red Cross disaster volunteers also met with affected families to provide emergency assistance and will continue working with the families to help them move on to the next phase of recovery.

PREVENT HOME FIRES As you try to keep warm during these cold days, keep in mind that heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires. Take a minute to review safety tips that will help prevent a fire in your home.

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
  • Turn off portable heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • REMEMBER SMOKE ALARM SAFETY The most effective way to protect yourself and your home from fire is to identify and remove fire hazards. About 65 percent of house fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. During a home fire, working smoke alarms can save lives.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working properly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Immediately install a new battery if an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low.
  • Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. Never disable smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • For more information on home fire safety, download the American Red Cross First Aid App which gives tips on how to prevent home fires, as well as severe winter weather safety tips. This free app is available on the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores. See all Red Cross apps at

    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.