American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

The most common disaster the American Red Cross responds to is not hurricanes or tornadoes — it’s home fires.

Home fires are extraordinarily destructive, and often happen to already vulnerable families. In December 2016, the Red Cross responded to the highest number of home fires it has in at least seven years: more than 130 home fires.

Nick Tedeschi and his wife, Shirley, experienced a home fire this past winter. “You never expect when you leave your home to come back and have lost everything,” Nick says about the experience. “But, you’ve got your life, so it’s OK.”

Nick and Shirley lost all their possessions in the fire. The Red Cross provided assistance with clothing and toiletries and made sure they had a place to stay immediately after the fire. They moved into the basement of one of Shirley’s kids’ homes for their long-term recovery.

“Home fires increase during the colder months. We’ve found that winter months bring more instances of home fires due to burning candles, leaving the oven on to help heat a home, and smoking in bed. A home fire is often a devastating loss to families,” says Harley Jones, regional disaster officer. “We encourage families to be prepared.”

The Red Cross, on average, responds to four home fires every day across Northern Illinois. They provide safe shelter, food, clothing, heath services, and emotional support to aid in long-term recovery for the affected families.

In numbers:

  • 7 people die every day from a home fire
  • 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day
  • More than $7 billion in property damage occurs every year

Nick and his wife were able to buy a new home this past summer. “It still hurts periodically,” says Nick, but they are happy to have a fresh start.

Prepare Your Home

Not only does the Red Cross help families who have experienced a home fire, but the Red Cross and partners are also on a mission to reduce death and injury from home fires by 25 percent by 2020.

The Red Cross asks everyone to take two simple steps to help prevent injury and death during a fire in their home: check smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home. There are other things families can do to prepare their home.

Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day. The plan should include two ways to get out of every room and a place to meet outside.

People should also install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. The alarms should be tested every month and the batteries replaced at least once a year.

Donate to the Red Cross

You can help the Red Cross continue to respond to home fires and help families like Nick’s. Visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS to make a donation today.