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Red Cross volunteers in Montana responded to 25 home fires in January

Yreka Court Fire
Posted at 4:15 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 18:19:42-05

MISSOULA — The American Red Cross in Montana reports that volunteers responded to 25 home fires across Montana in January, helping 90 people with their most immediate needs.

The volunteer responses included a multi-unit apartment fire in Missoula and home fires in Great Falls, Libby, Kalispell, Vaughn, Cut Bank, Helena, Livingston, Glendive, Lame Deer, Billings and Whitefish, according to a news release.

Overall this year, the Red Cross has responded to 36 fires across the state and helped 102 people.

The Red Cross of Montana reports they often see a jump in home fires during winter months as families turn to heat sources including space heaters, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

“Home fires can happen to anyone at any time, and working smoke alarms are so important to keeping your family safe,” said Scott O’Connell, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Montana, Idaho, and East Oregon. “On average, people have just two minutes to escape their home safely during a fire -- just two minutes. That’s why working smoke alarms and a plan of how to get out quickly can make all the difference during an emergency.”

The Montana Red Cross offers the following home fire safety tips:

  • Test smoke alarms: Ensure smoke alarms are installed on every level of the home, including the basement and in or near sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and replace batteries as needed. Replace smoke alarms older than 10 years.
  • Practice your escape plan: Take time to discuss fire safety with your household. Familiarize children with the sound of your smoke alarm and teach them what to do when they hear it when you practice your escape plan.
  • Use space heaters with caution: Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface — at least three feet away from things that could burn. And never leave space heaters unattended.
  • Avoid matches: Teach your children to tell you or a responsible adult when they find matches or lighters at home or school. Keep matches, lighters and other ignitable substances in a secured location out of reach of children.

Red Cross volunteers help meet families’ most immediate needs following a fire, including food, clothing and shelter. The release further notes that teams also connect families with mental health support, and spiritual care and help replace medications and medical equipment. The services are free of charge.
People who need help after a disaster like a home fire call 800-733-2767. People who are interested in becoming a Red Cross disaster volunteer can visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 800-733-2767) for additional information. Training is provided.