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Home Fires Become Top Disaster Threat in Hawaii

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The Hawaii Red Cross also provided financial support to 104 households after home fires.

This year the Hawaii Red Cross helped more people affected by home fires than any other everyday disaster. Local volunteers responded at all hours of the day with food, blankets and comfort to help hundreds of people with nowhere else to turn after home fires from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, 2014. 

The Hawaii Red Cross also provided financial support to 104 households after home fires to help replace lost belongings and begin the long road to recovery. Nationally, the Red Cross responds to a disaster in the community every 8 minutes and in Hawaii, the Red Cross responds to a disaster in the community every 4 days.  The vast majority of these are home fires.

“While floods, hurricanes and tsunamis tend to dominate the headlines, people often underestimate the frequency and devastation caused by home fires, and that’s where the Red Cross comes in,” said Coralie Chun Matayoshi, CEO of the Hawaii Red Cross.  “Our work doesn’t end after the smoke clears, every day local volunteers are helping people to recover and get better prepared.”   

Curbing Deaths and Injuries from Home Fires

Because of the high number of home fires in this country, the Red Cross launched a campaign this year to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years. The organization is asking every household in America to take two simple steps: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home. 

Since the campaign launched in November, the Red Cross—in partnership with fire departments and community groups nationwide—has already reached more than 29,000 people by installing 17,000 smoke alarms. These efforts have already saved lives of five families nationwide. In Hawaii, Red Cross clubs and community partners went door-to-door canvassing high-risk neighborhoods to distribute fire safety information and schedule free smoke alarm installations.  On Martin Luther King Day of Service, the Hawaii Red Cross in partnership with the Honolulu Fire Department and other community partners will be installing hundreds of free smoke alarms to those in need.

In addition, holiday seasons are often prone to an increase in home fires.  The Hawaii Red Cross has some tips to help prevent accidents and emergencies.  The cooks should start by not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking. Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If someone must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, they should turn off the stove.  Other safety steps include:

• Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.

• Keep the kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.

• Keep anything that can catch fire - pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.

• Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.

• Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen. 

• Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.

• Install a smoke alarm near the kitchen, on each level of the home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

• Download the American Red Cross First Aid App and other help mobile apps for instant information on what to do in emergencies.  For more information go to

Other Notable Disaster Responses

In addition to home fires, the Hawaii Red Cross responded to numerous other disasters this year, including Tropical Storm Iselle, Hurricane Ana and the Kilauea Lava Threat.

How You Can Help

Donate. Our work is made possible by the generosity of the American public. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it depends on public contributions to help others. Your gift supports the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross in your community, across the country and around the world.  To send a contribution, mail your check to American Red Cross, 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, Hawaii  96816 or make a secure online donation at or call (808) 739-8109.

Volunteer.  The Hawaii Red Cross continually recruits, trains and mobilizes volunteers to help those in need.  Over 95% of services are provided by volunteers.  All disaster training, services, and financial assistance to victims is free, through the generosity of our donors, volunteers, and the community.  Interested volunteers can go to  for opportunity listings.


About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disaster; 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 visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.