Red Cross helping several families due to recent fires

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - It's been a busy few weeks for firefighters in Rowan County, as well as for Red Cross workers who help families who may be displaced by house fires.

Typically, local Red Cross workers respond quickly when there is a house fire in the county.

"Our average response time to any incident is twenty to thirty minutes," said Daniel Micheal of the Hanford-Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross.

On Wednesday, Micheal and a volunteer responded to the devastating house fire that destroyed a home in East Spencer.  They were able to provide immediate help to homeowner Chi Chi Leazer by giving her a blanket to shield against the sub-freezing temperatures.

In addition to things such as blankets and clothes, the Red Cross can give financial assistance and help families have a place to live, at least for the short term.

"Thirty minutes to forty-five minutes after we realized we lost everything and have nowhere to stay, they had already took care of us and made sure we have somewhere to stay for the next week, it was pretty amazing," said Daniel Brucker.

Brucker, his fiance, and six children were displaced from their home off Long Ferry Road in December by a fire.

Occasionally when there are a large number of fires within a short period of time, it can put a strain on the resources that the Red Cross has to offer, but Michael says that's when the community, and other agencies, really step up.

"But we're fortunate that we have a really close working relationship with folks in Rowan County," Michael added.

The Red Cross assigns case workers to families in each situation.  Those workers may be involved with the victims for just a few days, or a few weeks.

"Ashley, (Red Cross worker) she's been with us at least two-three times a week," Brucker said. "She's done a lot for us, she really has."

In Charlotte there have also been several families needing help from the Red Cross.

In one day, volunteers with the Charlotte Metro Chapter of the American Red Cross respond to 3 multi-family fires and assists 48 people in 17 households. Wednesday's busy day follows an already high response holiday time from Christmas Day through Tuesday in which chapter volunteers responded to 13 fires and assisted 62 people in 16 households.

"As temperatures drop, we often see an increase in home fires," said Jerri Jameson, communications officer for the Red Cross Western North Carolina Region. "Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or wood or coal stoves to stay warm. These very things meant to keep a family warm and safe often result in tragic homes fires."

The Red Cross recommends safe heating tips:

•          Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.

•          Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

•          If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

•          When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.

•          Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home. Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

•          Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

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