1 minute readDisaster, History, Home Fire
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Why the Red Cross Responds to Home Fires

    May 1969. Dayton, Ohio. American Red Cross photo by Rudolph Vetter.

Each night while you and I are sleeping, there are families across the country who wake up to smoke, flames and firefighters working to put out the blaze engulfing their home. Of these daily disasters, seven people will die from a home fire and 36 people will have injuries.  For far too many Americans, this is a harsh reality.

Where will they go? What will they wear to work tomorrow? How will they feed their kids breakfast? The questions loop on a never ending reel.

The answer is much simpler than it appears. As firefighters race to the home, the fire department calls to dispatch American Red Cross responders. These volunteers answer calls at all hours of the day and night; they make sure the people have a warm bed to sleep in, a nutritious meal, clean clothes, access to a phone and a helping hand as they work to piece together their recovery plan. They’re no longer alone.

But why the Red Cross? The short answer is that we’re fulfilling our mission to alleviate human suffering. If you’ve heard of the Home Fire Campaign, you may think we’ve only been at this since 2014, but it’s actually been much longer.

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The American Red Cross began responding to disasters in 1881 with the Michigan forest fire. But before 1964, disaster relief typically was not provided unless the situation included five or more families.

After 83 years of responding to large-scale calamities, our leadership found there was a significant need we just weren’t meeting. At the 1964 national convention, we passed a resolution that eliminated that long-established guideline and opened the door to respond to single-family disasters, like home fires.

Today, we respond to a home fire every 8 minutes.

Red Cross Home Fire Campaign

In an ongoing effort to reduce death and injury from home fires, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is hosting a series of installation and fire safety events across the country. Red Cross volunteers, along with fire departments and other partners, canvass high-risk neighborhoods, installing free smoke alarms, replacing batteries in existing alarms and helping families create escape plans. Since 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has saved at least 258 lives and installed more than more than 886,000 smoke alarms in cities and towns across the United States.

Learn how you can help us Sound the Alarm to #EndHomeFires this fall.

If you have been affected by a home fire and need assistance, call us at 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit us at redcross.org to find your local Red Cross chapter.