L.A. Region Disaster Program Manager Jon Brown received a call from the L.A. Fire Dept. on Sun., Sept. 27, requesting Red Cross assistance for seven adults and five children whose home was destroyed by a fire.
As the on-call Disaster Duty Officer, Brown was used to receiving requests like this. However, he had a sinking feeling when he heard the address of the burned home in Van Nuys.
Less than 12 hours earlier, Brown was helping lead a team of Red Cross volunteers - including youth members from the West Valley Red Cross youth clubs and LAPD cadets - canvassing that exact Van Nuys neighborhood as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Volunteers install free smoke alarms and provide fire safety information.
Red Cross volunteers successfully installed more than 100 smoke alarms on Sept. 26, but the people whose home burned did not answer the door when the Red Cross visited.
After inspecting the home, LAFD said there was no evidence of working smoke alarms. A father and his infant son were critically burned and a pet dog and bird were killed in the fire.
“When I first heard about this disaster, I felt so disappointed,” said Brown. “The father and son might not have been hurt if we had been able to install the alarms the day before.”
Brown soon dispatched a Red Cross Disaster Action Team to the home. Volunteers provided members of the household with food, snacks, water, toiletries, blankets and financial assistance. Brown also located three hotel rooms in Van Nuys for the family members to stay until they could get back on their feet. Red Cross caseworkers are continuing to provide additional assistance.
“This incident underscores the importance of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign and how smoke alarms can prevent injuries and save lives,” said Brown.
He added that he is comforted that the 103 alarms that were installed that day have made other community members – including several elderly residents in the area - that much safer.
For more information about the L.A. Region Home Fire Campaign, please visit http://www.redcross.org/ca/los-angeles/home-fire-preparedness.
Photos by LAFD’s Mike Meadows and Red Cross’ Jennifer Faux.