By Sarah McMahon, American Red Cross
On New Year’s Day, Stacy Martinez-Hernandez and her family were awoken by someone yelling and banging on their door. Their Ramona, California home had caught on fire and Nick Espinoza, a 22-year-old on his way home from work, saw the flames and alerted the family. Espinoza also woke the neighbors and promptly called 911. The fire was contained to the family’s garage and the rest of the home sustained minor damage. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Stacy was still watching her house burn when she received a call from the American Red Cross. “The Red Cross was there with the first responders and they delivered right away. There was no wait, I was immediately covered,” Stacy said. “I was so distracted that they helped me before I realized it, and my family was safe for the night. It gave me relief and time to deal with the insurance company. The Red Cross really came through quick and that’s exactly what I needed.” The Red Cross provided financial assistance to help the Martinez-Hernandez family stay at a hotel for five days.
Like many people, Stacy didn’t know that the Red Cross responds to home fires. Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responds to a disaster somewhere in the nation, most of which are home fires. While these disasters don’t always grab headlines, they are disproportionately common and deadly. In Southern California, the Red Cross responded to over 740 home fires last fiscal year, providing survivors with help in the form of financial assistance, food and water, replacing prescriptions or eyewear, emotional support, and ongoing follow-up casework.
Stacy’s insurance company will place her family in temporary housing until they figure out next steps. She appreciates the kindness of Red Cross caseworkers, who have been calling every other day to follow up and make sure she’s okay.
Despite the traumatic experience, the Martinez-Hernandez family has found reason to be optimistic. Stacy’s daughter Haley trains as a ballroom dancer, and her dance community has stepped in to help, offering extra shoes and free lessons. Stacy also wants to thank the sheriff and first responders for saving priceless belongings like photo albums of her kids, and the outpouring of community support. “This situation uncovered enormous generosity and kindness. This fire has been so destructive but has also allowed us to see how many good people are in our lives,” said Stacy. "It’s easy sometimes to get lost in negativity but I’ve seen so much goodness come out of this, and the Red Cross is at the top of the list. We are touched beyond measure.”