Red Cross Says House Fires Quadrupled

From July to December 2005, the Red Cross gave out $11,000 in emergency assistance. In those same months in 2006, officials say the amount is up to nearly $46,000.

When the flames are out, and the firefighters gone, case worker Amanda Pierini is there to tell families who have nothing left that the Red Cross is on their side.

"You never know how people are going to react," says Pierini. "You just have to be there and reassure them that everything is going to be okay, and we're there to help."

These days the Gulf Coast chapter is helping more and more fire victims, in fact the number has quadrupled from this time last year. On Thursday, Red Cross workers surveyed the damage at a Bay St. Louis home destroyed by fire the day before.

"Unfortunately this year what we're seeing is that there are multiple families living in individual dwellings because of Katrina," says Red Cross Executive Director Bill Brent. "In this particular household there was a grandfather who housed his daughter and her three children so instead of one individual living here there had been five living here. So, unfortunately, now the daughter has now lost everything for a second time."

The Red Cross director isn't sure what's fueling these fires.

"I think part of this string is that you have multiple families living in single dwellings, and often it's a burden on the electrical system," Brent says. "Just more people living there with more stuff. There's more fire risk in general and particularly in small houses, FEMA trailers is another area where we've seen an increase of fires, and apartment buildings."

Amanda Pierini says, "It's hard especially for those FEMA trailer fires because they're in a FEMA trailer because they lost their home due to Katrina, and then they have to go through it all over again because the FEMA trailer caught on fire."

The Gulf Coast chapter has already spent most of the $66,000 budgeted for fire assistance and the fire season doesn't end until February. If you would like to donate to the fund call 228-896-7000.