Red Cross volunteers have helped nine people in home fires over the past week

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American Red Cross volunteers have assisted people in four home fires in the region since Dec. 13.

Red Cross volunteers with their Disaster Action Team have responded to four home fires since Dec. 13 — in Eldridge, Davenport, Galesburg and more.

Volunteers with the American Red Cross serving the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois assisted nine individuals with a temporary place to stay, emergency financial assistance, food, relief items like toiletries, health and mental health services, and one-on-one support to connect people to available recovery assistance, according to a Monday release.

If you or someone you know needs assistance after a home fire or local disaster, call the dispatch line: 1-877-597-0747. 

Every year, home fires claim more lives than natural disasters in the U.S. Therefore, it’s important to have working smoke alarms as they can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half, the Red Cross says. A working smoke alarm increases the chances that you and your loved ones can get out in less than two minutes – the amount of time that fire experts say you may have to escape a burning home before is too late. Below is lifesaving home fire safety information, including the importance to have and practice an escape plan.

Help keep your family safe by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your two-minute home fire escape drill. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.

  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.
  • Also check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such as batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.
  • In your escape plan, include at least two ways to exit every room in your home.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Take time to discuss the plan with everyone in your household and practice it at least twice a year.
  • While practicing your escape plan, teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.
Crews battle an early-morning house fire in East Moline from October 2021 (photo by Bryan Bobb.)

Cold Weather and Heating Safety

  • Provide at least three feet of space for all heating equipment. This is critical because most home heating fire tragedies occur when flammable items like furniture, rugs and drapes are too close.
  • In addition, never leave space heaters unattended — as they’re involved in most fatal home heating fires.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Don’t place it on rugs and carpets, or near bedding and drapes. And turn it off every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Failure to clean heating equipment is also a leading factor of home heating fires. Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces and chimneys inspected annually by a professional – and cleaned if necessary.

Cooking safety

Holiday celebrations is one of the peak days for cooking fires — which is the top cause of home fires in the U.S. Safely enjoy the holiday by keeping an eye on what you fry.

  • Never leave cooking food unattended. If you need to leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking.
  • Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • Turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over.

Candles and holiday decorations

Nearly one-third (29%) of use have left the room or fallen asleep while burning candles – which causes some 20 home fires a day on average. To help keep your family safe, use battery-operated candles.

  • If you must use candles, keep them away from anything that could burn, and place them out of reach of pets and children.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended.
  • During a power outage, use battery-operated flashlights or lanterns.
  • Check all holiday light cords to ensure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together — no more than three per extension cord.
  • Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Ensure outside decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
  • If buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label.  When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat. Never use electric lights on metallic trees.
  • If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. To test if the tree is fresh, bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.
  • Don’t light the fireplace if hanging stockings or other decorations on the mantel.
  • Check the labels of older decorations. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
  • If using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.

For more information about home fire safety, visit redcross.org/fire.

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