Fighting Fire with Service

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When fire ripped through the attic of a Lyles Lane townhouse October 29, it served as an unfortunate reminder of the danger and pain that comes with serious house fires.

Entering the holiday season with Thanksgiving a week away and several more winter holidays in the weeks to follow those disastrous house fires grow even more painful and prevalent as they traditionally increase as the temperatures fall outside, according to Jed Duvall of the Alexandria Red Cross.

This is the time of year for it, Duvall said. People start putting their heat on, start decorating [for holidays], lighting candles and that kind of thing typically, October-November-December can be some of the heaviest months December in particular.

That October 29 blaze, an electrical fire, led to Alexadria fire marshals condemning four adjacent townhomes in the Parkfairfax complex. No one was injured in the fire but four families were forced from their homes, according to the Alexandria Fire Department, and two of the affected families sought help from the Red Cross.

Fortunately for the families involved, the fire spared most of the valuables in the damaged units, but not all are so lucky, according to Captain Luis Santano of the AFD.

Santano said in the case of a serious fire, the Red Cross is called in to help in any way it can. He added that homes are condemned based on the extent and location of damage.

Fire is the main thing that we see in this area that displaces people, Duvall said, adding that gas leaks and other issues also force people from their homes and into the arms of the Red Cross.
Weve had several fires in Alexandria in the last two or three weeks and weve had some challenging situations where people have been burned out of their homes and needed help for several days with lodging, Duvall said. Well also help them in the way of some financial assistance depending on the needs they have and the other resources they have.

There are about 15 to 20 incidents a year in Alexandria where fire forces people out of their homes, according to Duvall.

In some cases the victims are able to stay with relatives or friends but if their options are limited, the Red Cross can to put them up in a hotel room or shelter.

The toughest ones that Ive seen as most of the guys would tell you are around Christmas time, especially when there are kids involved, Santano said, recalling an incident last year in which the room holding all of the holiday presents went up in flames.

When that does happen, both Santano and Duvall said their organizations do what they can to lessen the impact of families losses, including toy-collection programs for the youngest victims.

While Santano mentioned the importance of properly functioning fire detectors, Duvall brought up an oft-overlooked preventative resource for those who arent covered by traditional homeowners insurance: Renters insurance.

With some coverage plans as low as $15 or $20 a month, Duvall said its in a renters best interest to scope out that option if its affordable what can be lost in fire far outweighs a few hundred dollars a year.

If you do rent, its important to look at options for renters insurance its very inexpensive and can really save you in a situation like this, he said.

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