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November Sees Uptick in Home Fires, 100 Volunteers Respond

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Four-year-old Yvens Saint Pierre naps at the Red Cross shelter in Orange. Pierre and his family had a warm place to stay following a fire that damaged their home.

Thanks to our knowledgeable and skilled volunteers, displaced families received much-needed help.

As the weather gets colder, the American Red Cross typically sees an increase in home fires. Thus far this month, a total of 109 Disaster Action Team volunteers responded to 22 home fires throughout the North Jersey Region to offer comfort and support to affected families. Red Cross emergency assistance was provided to 71 families totaling 240 people who were impacted by home fires. 

“We are grateful for the compassion and dedication of our amazing volunteers who run out into the cold of night to assist families when they need it most,” said Mathieu Nelessen, regional CEO American Red Cross North Jersey Region. “Their kindheartedness and commitment to helping others is a driving force behind Red Cross Disaster Services in the region.”

This past weekend alone, 14 members of the North Jersey Region Disaster Action Team responded to seven home fires to provide eight families, 25 people, with emergency assistance.

Weekend disaster response included a multi-building fire in Newark that affected more than 40 people. Red Cross Disaster Action Team members opened a reception center to bring the affected families inside out of the cold weather to assess their immediate needs. A shelter team was put on standby, but was not needed as the majority of individuals decided to stay with friends and family. 

On Friday, November 7, a four-alarm fire tore through an apartment building on Park Avenue in Orange. Several people were injured escaping the blaze and more than 50 residents from the building were displaced. Residents in an adjacent building were evacuated as a precaution. The Red Cross was called to help the more than 100 people displaced.

Red Cross volunteers opened a reception center at nearby Park Avenue Elementary School as a place for the families to gather. Preparation for a potential shelter opening began with a call-out to volunteers to check availability for staffing a shelter. The volunteers on the Logistics team were on standby for set up. 

The City of Orange provided lunch for those affected who were waiting to learn the extent of the damage of their homes. Neither building was deemed safe for return that evening and the Red Cross opened a shelter at the school. The Salvation Army, a Red Cross community partner, stepped in to provide meals through Saturday, after which the Red Cross Mass Care team took over feeding responsibilities and arranged for three meals per day at the shelter.

Red Cross volunteer nurses and Disaster Mental Health volunteers were on hand at the shelter. These trained volunteers, all of whom are licensed health professionals, help meet the health and emotional needs of people affected by disaster. 

Seventy-three volunteers in total helped set up and work the five-day shelter operation – Friday through Wednesday – providing 2,347 meals and snacks, 96 comfort kits and 50 fresh start kits to those affected by the fire. In addition, Red Cross volunteer case workers provided emergency assistance for food, clothing and other necessities as needed to 130 people within the 44 families who had lived in the damaged building.

“I am proud of the great work of our volunteers,” said Steven Sarinelli, regional disaster officer, American Red Cross North Jersey Region. “Thanks to our knowledgeable and skilled volunteers, families received much-needed assistance and resources to begin to recover.” 

Red Cross volunteers are on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week to respond to home fires and other disasters throughout the region to help their neighbors in need. Following home fires, Red Cross volunteers meet with the families to determine their immediate needs and provide emergency assistance in the form of temporary lodging, food and clothing as needed. While for most families it is their first experience with a home fire, Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers respond to home fires often and have the expertise to help families through the next steps towards recovery, including guidance and referrals to other organizations or agencies that may be able to provide additional assistance.  

Last year, the Red Cross North Jersey Region responded to 494 local home fires to provide assistance to 1,130 displaced families. 

All emergency assistance is free to those affected by disasters and is made possible through the donation of time by our incredible volunteers and the generosity of compassionate donors. Thank you all.