Firefighters, Red Cross Taxed by Rash of Fires - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/04/06

Firefighters, Red Cross Taxed by Rash of Fires

57th and Crane Streets just after 5am this morning. 57th and Crane Streets just after 5am this morning.

With our warmer weather lately, you'd think we'd have fewer fires. But a recent rash of house fires is real trouble for the families and the people who try to help.

The latest blaze, on Savannah's 57th and Crane Streets started just after 5am this morning and left seven people homeless.

Since about March 15, the fire department has responded to anywhere between 15 and 20 house fires, and the Red Cross is taking care of more than four dozen families who lost their homes to fires this month.

Although fire season is technically over, firefighters don't believe that's the case.

"It's been across the city and across the board," said Matt Stanley, a spokesman with Savannah Fire and Emergency Services. "We've had fires in every range of home."

Robin Wingate with the Red Cross says this past month has been particularly draining. "We had been responding to 50 fires--one every 36 hours--for the month of March, we are responding to one fire every 15 hours."

Wingate says this has been the busiest disaster month outside Hurricane Katrina. Currently the Red Cross is helping 50 families who lost their homes to recent fires. "Each family costs anywhere between six and seven hundred dollars a month."

And while the fire department cannot pinpoint an exact cause of the sudden increase in fires, they do know that a lot of these fires could have been prevented. "The majority are behavioral," said Stanley. "What we're finding are space heaters, improper smoking, improper cooking or use of cooking materials."

And while firefighters are tired, Stanley tells us the actual number of calls coming in is less than last year. "The number of fires we responded to has gone up, but the number of calls has gone down. The difference is we're responding to fires instead of a cat running up a tree."

Also, Stanley believes today's fire started in a back bedroom closet. The cause is possibly electrical, but investigators are still looking into this case.

The Red Cross is in need of donations. They have a special fund set up called Heroes for Home Fires, and the money donated will go directly to fire victims. You can reach the local office at PO Box 9987, Savannah 31412 or 912-651-5300.

Reported by: Christy Hutchings, chutchings@wtoc.com

 

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