The biggest disaster threats to American families aren’t floods or hurricanes, but home fires. Every day the Red Cross responds to home fires across the country that leave residents homeless. Richard Johnson, 70, and his wife, Dorothy, experienced this firsthand when a fire raged through their Federal Way apartment building in June.
Loud noises outside their second-floor apartment woke the Johnsons around midnight. They opened the door to find the hallway filled with smoke and flames coming from a nearby unit. Without time to find their shoes, they scrambled out of the apartment and crawled to an exit on their hands and knees to avoid the smoke.
As they joined the crowd in the parking lot, rain began to fall. Residents huddled under carports in their pajamas and bare feet as firefighters struggled to put out the fire and rescue those trapped in the building. “Everybody was wet, cold, and confused,” Mr. Johnson recalled.
Warm hearts, warm hands
Within a few hours, a Red Cross van arrived. The driver encouraged the Johnsons to get in the van and warm up, then drove them to an emergency shelter set up by volunteers at a nearby community center. The Johnsons spent several nights there.
“I take my hat off to the Red Cross,” said Mr. Johnson. “Everyone made us feel so comfortable. Without them, I think we probably would have frozen that night.”
Like other victims of the catastrophic fire, the Johnsons had lost everything. The Red Cross helped them replace lost medication, clothing, a bank card and ID, and even connected them with a locksmith who made new car keys so they could get their car running.
The Johnsons’ stay at the shelter didn’t last long. After a few days, the Red Cross connected them with a realtor who had heard about the fire and had an apartment available in Des Moines. With Red Cross funds, they were able to settle in right away with a mattress and bedding.
“Our family away from home”
Richard and Dorothy have been living in their new apartment for four months. “[The Red Cross] stayed in touch with us after we were gone,” said Mr. Johnson. “We stopped by the shelter to say hi. They became part of us, our family away from home. The love they showed us, the consideration they showed us, was just awesome.”
The Red Cross not only responds to fires, but is also working to prevent them. With its 2014 Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, the Red Cross has teamed up with the Seattle Fire Department to install smoke alarms in Seattle-area homes and educate residents about fire safety. With your help, we can reduce the number of homes and lives lost to fires. Visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.