Nine Fire Cases in the Past Two Weeks….Alarming

Diana McKenzie of Harrisonburg, La., turned to the Red Cross after losing 14-years’ worth of memories and belongings, just two days before Thanksgiving.  The morning of November 24, 2009, Diana left her 21-year-old daughter and 18-month-old grandbaby at home to go visit her doctor in a town nearby.  It was cold that morning, so Diana’s daughter turned on the stove to warm their 12 x 60 trailer home.
 
Diana received a phone call from a friend urging her to come home immediately.  Caused by an electrical surge in the wire that ran from the outside electric pole to the stove, a fire had completely destroyed Diana’s home.  She was devastated but thankful that her daughter and grandchild escaped with only minor injuries. 
 
“I’ve worked like a dog my entire life,” said Diana. “After this happened, I started going into a deep depression but I can remember being uplifted by the smile and attention given to me by Lakeitha (Red Cross Caseworker), at a time that she should have been home taking care of her own family.”
 
As the temperature drops and concerns of higher energy bills rise, the American Red Cross of Central Louisiana urges families to take special precautions to prevent home fires.   A recent American Red Cross and National Fire Protection Association survey showed that the majority of Americans will use an alternative method to heat their homes.
 
Within the past month, the Central Louisiana Red Cross has seen a major increase in the number of home fire cases across Central Louisiana.  Nine families have turned to the Red Cross for emergency help after home fires in just the last two weeks.
 
“Whenever a family needs us, Red Cross volunteers respond but the need becomes especially distressing during the Holidays because of increased home fires” said Leann Murphy, CEO of the Central Louisiana Red Cross.  “More than ever, we need people to invest in the work of the Red Cross so we have the resources to help families when disaster strikes, even in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.”
 
The tragedy of a home fire devastates a family, and the Red Cross responds to meet disaster-caused emergency needs like shelter, clothes, food, or replacing life-sustaining medicines lost in the disaster.  In just the last 5 months, the Central Louisiana Red Cross has helped 56 families impacted by disaster as well as 97 military families with emergency needs.  Currently donations are $29,163 dollars behind expenses and the Red Cross has been using limited emergency reserves to continue programs and services in Central Louisiana. 
 
To make a donation online go to www.cenlaredcross.org/donate  or call 318 442-6621.  To learn how you can prevent a home fire, visit http://www.cenlaredcross.org/media/FireSafety.pdf or call the Red Cross at 318-442-6621.
 
The American Red Cross offers common-sense tips to avoid holiday fires.
􀂃 Decorate Christmas trees only with laboratory-approved lights.
􀂃 Unplug Christmas tree lights when leaving home or going to bed.
􀂃 Do not decorate metal trees with lights.
􀂃 Do not decorate trees with candles.
􀂃 Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible material.
􀂃 Place trees away from heat sources and exits.
􀂃 Water trees daily.
􀂃 Make sure chimneys are inspected before the holidays and cleaned if
necessary.
􀂃 Keep space heaters at least three feet away from bedding, clothing, furniture,
drapes and anything else combustible. Use equipment that is approved for
indoor use. Turn space heaters off if you are not available to monitor this
equipment. Remember at all times children anywhere near space heaters
must be supervised at all times.
􀂃 Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing when cooking to avoid ignition by stove
burners.
 
Heating and Cooking Fires:
According to NFPA reports, cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires. The survey revealed the majority of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes (79%), and that 48% of households will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. Alternative heating sources include portable space heaters, stoves, ovens and fireplaces. A third (36%) of people with fireplaces reported they never cleaned or inspected their chimneys. The survey also found 23% of respondents did not consider it essential to make sure someone is home when food is cooking on the stove.
Smoke Alarms and Fire Escape Plans:
Respondents also revealed another unsafe behavior, which is disabling (37%) smoke alarms when they go off in a non-testing situation. More than half (53%) of the households surveyed have not taken any of three common actions in most home fire escape plans, which includes discussing with family members how to get out of the home, deciding on an outdoor meeting place and practicing the plan.
**American Red Cross/National Fire Protection Association 2008 survey**

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