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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Red Cross aids fire victims

Thursday, December 8, 2011

For volunteers with the American Red Cross of the Wabash Valley, helping families who have lost their homes to fires is difficult.

And it's especially difficult during the holiday season.

Just this past week, volunteers have responded to four home fires, two of which took place in Clay County. A total of five children and 10 adults were affected.

"Four fires for us to respond to in 24 hours is a little unique," American Red Cross of the Wabash Valley Executive Director Carol Stevens told The Brazil Times Thursday.

Stevens said on average, the organization responds to 140 home fires on an annual basis. Since July 2, however, they have responded to 47 home fires.

And with the temperatures changing, Stevens said seeing an increase in home fires is not necessarily unusual, especially with some families using space heaters to heat up homes.

"We're in the season now," Stevens added. "Winter time is when we see a spike in fires. And in our culture, it's supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. It can be very emotional to deal with."

For example, Stevens said two years ago, the local organization responded to what she said felt like a home fire "every day for about 30 days."

"It was in the winter time," she said. "It was unusual, a very sad time, to have to work with so many families in such a short time period."

Stevens said when Red Cross volunteers respond to home fires, one of the first things they do is reach out and provide comfort for the families.

"It's always difficult for families," she said. "It's a shock and a surprise to lose their home."

Stevens said when notified, a team of volunteers immediately go to the site of the incident and meet personally with the family.

"One of the first things we want to do is give the family a hug and provide that immediate emotional support," she said.

Stevens said the volunteers then give the family time to absorb the situation and regroup before discussing options.

"We go through a series of questions on how we can help immediately," she said. "It's our standard operating procedure."

Stevens added some of the volunteers are licensed mental health workers, which come in handy for the families in need.

"We do encourage the families to get in contact with them just to help them through the initial shock and emotion of trying to get your life back to some sense of normalcy," she said.

Volunteers are also offered a time of debriefing after helping families, something Stevens said is encouraging.

"They really identify with the family," Stevens said. "It's just kind of an emotional time. But you want them to know for this moment, they are not totally alone."

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