Audra Graham was cooking dinner for her son and family friends when a dishtowel caught fire.
“It was pitch-black in the house,” Audra said. “You couldn’t breathe, and it was just to the point where we thought the whole house was going to go up. I just thank God for the [smoke] alarms.”
Red Cross volunteers installed the smoke alarms five months before the fire occurred in May. The safety visit at Audra’s home was part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which aims to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries by installing free smoke alarms and educating families about fire safety with community partners.
Volunteers visited the home before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the postponement of home visits to help protect everyone’s well-being (free online resources remain available at redcross.org/homefires). But visits made before the coronavirus continue to help people like Audra — who is among more than 761 lives saved through the campaign since it launched in October 2014.
“I’m grateful for the Red Cross,” said Audra, who also received emergency financial assistance and health services support from the Red Cross after the fire. “I’m grateful for just having the equipment and the knowledge because it did help save myself and help save others that were here.”
STAY SAFE FROM HOME FIRES Cooking is the leading cause of home fires — the nation’s most frequent disaster, which claims seven lives each day in the U.S. Whether you’re grilling outside or cooking in the kitchen, stay safe with these tips:
- Keep an eye on what you fry! Stay in the kitchen and never leave cooking food unattended. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
- Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away. Also move items that can burn away and avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking.
- Never grill indoors — not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
Visit redcross.org/homefires for information about the campaign and free resources, including an escape plan to practice with your household and guidance for installing smoke alarms.
‘YOU GUYS TAKE CARE OF EVERYBODY’ Since February, when the coronavirus outbreak began to escalate in our country, Red Cross workers have helped more than 62,000 people recover from more than 20,000 home fires nationwide.
Diedra Kelly is among these families. After an apartment fire in May displaced her family and dozens of neighbors, Red Cross workers provided emergency lodging at a local hotel — rather than opening a shelter — to ensure social distancing for families. There, volunteers distributed food and essentials to residents, who had little more than masks and the clothes on their backs.
“We always know that you guys take care of everybody, and we thank you for that,” Diedra told the Red Cross.
‘I FEEL I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE’ Generous support and volunteers like Maria Anguiano make this work possible every day. Families are often overwhelmed after losing nearly everything to a home fire — which is why the Red Cross mission is critical in local communities.
“When seeing the little kids’ innocent faces…and [their] happiness receiving our Oreos, stuffed animals or other assistance, I feel I am making a difference,” Maria said. “More importantly, I realized how beautiful the Red Cross mission is and what the Red Cross is doing — to step up to help those in need.”
During COVID-19, Red Cross volunteers like Debbie Tevlin can’t hug devastated families, but their presence still provides support and comfort.
“No matter where we respond in our county or region, I know that I’m simply helping my own neighbors,” said Debbie, who provided meals to Diedra and her family at the local hotel. “Serving and sharing meals in a shelter is simply extending a communal hug and, especially now, we could all use a warm, heartfelt hug.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP This is the time to take care of one another. Please join us to help people in need:
- Donate at redcross.org. A gift of any size makes a difference.
- Volunteer by registering for opportunities at redcross.org/volunteer. Our need for volunteers is constant and continues to evolve as we navigate this health crisis.