Red Cross: South MS house fires on the rise

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - When nothing is left of a family's home but rubble and ash, your donation of money or time could make all the difference. Since September, the South Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross has responded to more than 80 house fires. The Red Cross can't support these families during their time of tragedy without the support of the community.

When a fire swept through a Gulfport house last week destroying everything inside, the Red Cross reached out to help the family, as it has done for so many others. Between September and October, the Red Cross's South Mississippi chapter responded to 39 house fires. For November and December, that number rose to 44 house fires.

"As always, we are looking to the future because we know this is a time of the year when there is an increase in house fires," said Michelle Wilson, Major Gift Officer.

Red Cross officials say in the last four months, they've paid out $28,000 to provide families with hotel rooms and emergency assistance for their immediate needs.

"We try to budget for that amount and we always see where we may fall short," Wilson said. "That's why we look out into the community and ask the donors to step up and donate more to help those individuals within our community."

The Red Cross depends on the community for volunteers and is always in need of helping hands. Officials say volunteers are the ones who get up in the middle of the night to support and console the fire victims who've lost everything.

Disaster Program Manager Angie Grajada said, "We have found with our volunteers who go to these fires will tell you really what it means to most of the families is just that support. That contact and a hug. To know that there's somebody there who can help them understand what's happened and know what to do next and just know that their community cares for them."

Officials said when you donate to the Red Cross online, you must designate your gift is for the South Mississippi chapter if you want those funds to stay local. Another option is to drop off your monetary donation at the Biloxi or Pascagoula offices.

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