Red Cross fire relief budget goes up in flames

By: Diane Cho
By: Diane Cho

They come to your rescue when you need it the most, but now they need some rescuing themselves.

Many associate the Red Cross with big disasters like hurricanes...but most of their funds go to small disasters, mainly house fires.

Conditions are fanning flames across the region.

It takes about $700 to $800 on average to get a fire victim and their family back on their feet for a couple of days. Multiply that by 43--that's how many fires have already happened this year--and you can see how a budget that started at $60,000 is now almost gone.

Valerie Jordan walks into a home she barely recognizes.

A mangled piece of metal covered in insulation used to be one of Valerie’s most prized possessions.

“Now I can't bake anything,” she says.

Valerie was even working on a cake the night before the fire climbed up to the attic and destroyed everything in its path.

“I couldn't say anything...it took me a long time to get the few little things I had for it be gone so quickly,” she says.

Knowing her insurance company would help her get back on her feet, she told the fire marshal she didn't need help from Red Cross.

That was before she found out her agent was out of town.

“They gave me hotel for three days and clothes and food voucher so the girls could go to school next day,” says Valerie.

But the same help Valerie had may not be there for the next victim.

The Red Cross disaster budget is disappearing fast.

“We're at 43 since January 1,” says Kathleen Kosmoski, executive director of the Augusta Red Cross. “In January alone we've seen 26, so we're averaging one a day.”

That's one house fire a day--spread across 11 counties in Georgia.

The Augusta Red Cross even helped a family of four across the state border, just outside of North Augusta.

Their house went up in flames just four days before Valerie’s.

“That's where most of our money goes, is to help people with single family fires. It is a silent disaster but that's what we respond to most frequently,” says Kosmoski.

Money you never think you'll need...until it happens to you.

“They think it's not them, ‘it wouldn't be me’, and you never know, it might not be you today, tomorrow, but next week it might be your turn and you're going to want all the help you can get,” says Valerie.

With 4 months to go in their budget year, the Red Cross is down to about $11,000…money that will be used up quickly if these fires continue.

So how can you help?

You can send your donations to the Augusta address at 1322 Ellis Street, or you can call them at 724-8481.

The American Red Cross helped nearly 67,000 families who fell victim to house fires last year.

That's 92 percent of all Red Cross disasters.

The Augusta chapter responded to 189 house fires, helping 484 families.


Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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