In the early morning hours of January 23nd, there was a serious house fire in East Norriton, Montgomery County. Since my volunteer role at the SEPA Red Cross began, I’ve been in the habit of checking the local news each morning. That’s how I saw the interview with the Montgomery County fire chief where he explained that the recent cold snap created some special challenges for the responders. It took a while to find a working hydrant. Water froze on contact with everything it touched: the grass, the pavement, the house. The hoses froze to the pavement and could not be moved once the fire was extinguished. Two fire fighters were hurt slipping on the ice. Two residents were hurt jumping out of a second floor window. It is safe to say that 10 degree temperatures made a terrible situation even worse, but the fire fighters were there to do their job and they deserve our admiration and respect.
The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania was also there. Volunteers rose in the middle of the night to be at the scene and care for residents forced out into the cold. They were there with financial assistance for food, clothing, shoes and winter coats to four people affected by the fire. Frozen hoses are not the only challenging consequence of a cold snap. Cold and fire are old friends. When heating bills become high and un-payable, people take risks to create heat. Stove burners are turned to high, a space heater overloads a socket, and an oven is turned to 500 degrees and left open.
In the last few frozen days, our volunteers responded to 10 fires in all five Southeastern, PA counties. We helped 48 people who were forced out of their homes. In every case, Red Cross volunteers were there side by side with fire fighters to do the other half of the work: care for the people involved.
These volunteers are extremely special people. Most of us are good at caring for our family and friends; very few of us are good at caring for strangers in 10 degree temperatures at 2:00 in the morning. But still Red Cross volunteers are there. We were there this week. Our volunteers are dedicated middle of the night risers, unstoppable on ice and determined to provide relief. We will see our region through the winter months, no matter how cold it gets
Below is a video of a separate fire response, this one Friday evening 1/25/13 in N. Wales, Montgomery County. It further underscores the point made above.
Although October may be the month of haunted houses and horror movies, there is one “scare” we never want: fire. The combination of Halloween décor and dry autumn weather makes October the perfect time for Fire Safety Month. Here are some tips to keep your home and family safe this season:
- Keep the Halloween jack-o-lantern tradition alive, but forgo any actual flames. Using candles in jack-o-lanterns is a huge hazard, and easily avoided by using flashlights or battery operated lights.
- Also, be cautious in your placement of jack-o-lanterns or other luminaries. Having a well lit pathway is nice, but the close proximity of flames to high-traffic areas is not.
- Corn stalks or hay bales should be placed far from any flames or heat sources, as they are highly flammable. Remember, light bulbs give off heat and should never be draped with fabric, etc.
- Whether your trick-or-treater wants to be Thor or a kitty cat, be sure the costume is flame-retardant. Rayon, acrylic and cotton/polyester blends are the most flammable fabrics.
- How are your smoke detectors? Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries is right around the corner (November 4), but it never hurts to double check the batteries in your home.
- It’s getting colder out there. If you’re digging out space heaters or opening up the chimney, be sure to take preventative measures. Sweep your chimney, install a fire guard and keep heaters away from flammable materials.
- Not only are there precautions for inside your home, but outside, too. Clear your roof and gutters of debris buildup, such as pine needles and leaves, and learn the outdoor burning regulations in your area. Burning leaves and other outdoor debris (illegal or not) can be very risky.
Viewing Danelle Stoppel’s posts on the wildfire situation in Colorado, has helped me learn to an even greater extent the kind of support the Red Cross offers in critical moments. As a new blogger with Red Cross Philly and as a new volunteer still growing acclimated to all the services the Red Cross provides, I was impressed to learn that in the midst of the wildfire crisis, the Red Cross was there also in Colorado providing temporary shelter, handing out supplies, serving meals and otherwise offering supportive services so essential in a crucial time of need.
Scanning through the local newspapers last week is when I first came across coverage of the ravaging wildfires tearing through parts of Colorado. The Philadelphia Daily News printed on June 28, that thousands fled their homes due to the fires. At one point the numbers reached a staggering 30,000 plus people who had been displaced. The Metro’s June 29 –July 1 weekend paper projected the number of homes destroyed in the hundreds. Add to that total, the various structures and buildings burned down in the wildfires’ periphery and the count of destroyed properties climbed by several hundred. Consequently, an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer indicated that the ongoing wildfires, which firefighters and other emergency personnel have worked hard to contain, are the most destructive in Colorado’s state history. Reading in the newspapers the massive damage brought about by the wildfires gave me awareness to what was happening in Colorado. Nevertheless, reading Danelle’s posts and viewing the pictures on the Red Cross Philly blog helped me to understand in a more tangible way the amount of effort and hard work that goes into supporting disaster relief situations, the hardships that the volunteers share with the victims, and the camaraderie that bonds the volunteers, workers and the people together during a time of crisis. When you go to the Red Cross Philly “About” page and read the first sentence in the “About Us” section you’ll see that it mirrors just the thing Danelle and other volunteers were carrying out in Colorado as Red Cross representatives which is “to be in the unique role of serving as the safety net for the American people in their hour of greatest need.” That I’m learning is the essential service the Red Cross provides.
- Jabril Redmond, volunteer