Authorities urge caution as local residents face peak fire season

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 6:52 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Just last week, three people in the river region died in house fires.

And the Red Cross says in just the past few days, it’s helped 12 families who’ve lost their homes.

It’s a trend emergency responders see every winter, which means we’re still in peak fire season.

Last week at Azalea Park Apartments in Augusta, seven families lost their homes when a fire destroyed one of the buildings.

We spoke with two people displaced by the fire, and the emotional toll is still setting in. There’s a lot of rubble, ashes and debris, but nothing left for them to hold on to. Right now, caseworkers are working to get them back into apartments, and the investigation into the fire is ongoing.

“Literally this past week, we have responded to 12 families just in the past week who have lost their homes to home fires,” said Susan Everitt, executive director of the Red Cross in Augusta.

According to the Augusta Fire Department, as temperatures drop, the risk for home fires heats up.

Already this month, the department has responded to 15 fire-related calls. Last December, crews responded to 20 calls total for the month.

So calls are coming at a faster pace than a year ago. For every serious fire they respond to, so does Red Cross.

“We respond to about 250 home fires every single year. So it’s literally five a week. But this past week, we responded to 12, so that is definitely an uptick. But we’re hoping that is not a trend that we’re gonna see continuing,” said Everitt.

There have also been four home fire-related deaths in the CSRA just in the past seven days. The main reason we see more fires in the winter months is because people are trying to keep warm.

“You’re turning your heaters on maybe for the first time. There’s some clothes lying next to it or books or magazines or something that catches fire,” Everitt said.

Cooking is another top cause, as well as electrical issues.

The Augusta Fire Department says to be careful when cooking and make sure you don’t overload power outlets. When it comes to space heaters, keep them off of carpet or rugs and don’t use them if they’re too old.

“If you have a working smoke alarm, you have about double the chances of surviving because you get that early detection, that early notice. So if you have a smoke alarm, just take a second to test it,” said Everitt.

If you don’t have a working smoke detector the Red Cross or the fire department can give you one. You just have to give them a call.

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