ROME, Friday, January 5, 2018 – Ask any Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteer in Northwest Georgia and they’ll confirm it. December was an especially busy month for home fire responses across the 13 counties they support daily, around-the-clock (Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Murray, Polk, Walker, Whitfield and Union counties).
When 77 local families lost everything, and had nowhere else to turn last month, Red Cross volunteers were there providing emotional support, emergency financial assistance for lodging, food and clothing; help replacing prescription medications; guidance on recovery next-steps and more.
Sometimes it’s just one individual that needs help; other times it’s a 20-unit apartment complex like the one that burned in Dalton (Whitfield Co.) on December 15th, stranding 19 people. Sadly, there was no let-up of fires during the two-week Christmas holiday period. Between December 18-31, the Red Cross responded to 19 events and assisted 27 families (51 people). The new year is off to an equally busy start with fires in six counties impacting another eight families (32 people) during the first three days of January.
“In most cases, Red Cross volunteers are the first glimmer of hope that people have after a devastating home fire,” said Carla Maton, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Northwest Georgia. “We couldn’t do what we do without their willingness to respond in the middle of the night, cross-county in freezing temperatures to help total strangers. I can’t say enough about our team of 14 responders; they’re my heroes.”
Disaster volunteer Keith Cheek has personally responded to 18 fires in recent days as part of the Red Cross team and finds lasting gratification in helping others. “When you’re sitting there with a young mother with an 8-month old baby whose husband just lost his job and the family is struggling to get by, it’s really gratifying to be able to help them right then and there,” says Cheek. “I admit it gets difficult sometimes but that goes away when you see how hard the situation is for families after a house fire. Being able to give them the means to feed themselves, have a roof over their heads and few days to figure things out makes it all worthwhile.”
Cold temperatures often bring a rise in home fires. The Red Cross offers these tips to help prevent a fire in your home while trying to stay warm:
· Keep all potential sources of fuel paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs - at least three feet away from sources of heat.
· Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended.
· Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface. Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
· Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
· Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen.
Meanwhile, more Red Cross volunteers are always needed in Northwest Georgia to respond to home fires and other disasters. For more information, visit: http://www.redcross.org/volunteer