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Red Cross Issues Fire Safety Tips; Responds to More than 50 Fires in Iowa Since November First

Fire Safety

DES MOINES, IA, Wednesday, December 11, 2013—Following an extremely busy few weeks responding to home fires, the American Red Cross serving Greater Iowa urges residents to take extra precautions this winter.

Since November 1, 2013, 108 Red Cross volunteer disaster workers responded to more than 50 fires in 29 Iowa counties (Adams, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Buena Vista, Butler, Cedar, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Clarke, Clay, Davis, Decatur, Fayette, Hamilton, Jefferson, Johnson, Linn, Lucas, Marshall, Monona, Polk, Sioux, Story, Tama, Van Buren, Wayne, Webster, Woodbury and Worth.) Eleven home fire responses happened just in the last week.  The Red Cross provides immediate needs like food, shelter, clothing and emotional support to those affected by disaster. Client caseworkers meet with the families to see what other resources may be needed to move toward recovery.

These recent homes fires serve as reminders to be extra cautious while not only heating our homes, but also while cooking and decorating around the holidays “Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, and as people are cooking, entertaining, and stringing lights this holiday season, we’re urging that they take safety measures to ensure that their homes and loved ones are safe from the threat of fire,” said Dan Cataldi, Iowa Region Disaster Program Officer.

Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving are the top three days for cooking fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Nationally, the Red Cross responds to a disaster on average every eight minutes, and the vast majority of them are home fires.

The Red Cross has some simple steps everyone can follow to prevent home fires around the holidays:

Holiday Entertaining

  • Test your smoke alarms.
  • 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.
  • Enforce a “kid-free zone” in the cooking area and make children stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove, oven or any 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. Contact the local fire department to receive training on the proper use of extinguishers.

Holiday Decorating

  • Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Keep children, pets and decorations away from lit candles.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect. Some strings of lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  • Keep decorations away from windows and doors.

People should also download the free American Red Cross First Aid app, which provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to

People can test their knowledge on how to prevent home fires by taking the Fire Safety Quiz, and can learn more about fire prevention by visiting

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 join our blog at