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Red Cross reaches out to educate public about fire safety and prevention

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Posted at 6:22 PM, Jan 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-10 18:47:37-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Fire investigators have another case on their hands. They’re trying to figure out what sparked a fire at a home in Richmond’s East End.

Crews raced to the scene on Redwood Avenue near Spotsylvania Street Saturday afternoon.

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Neighbors looked on wondering what started it all. Scenes like these are playing out all across the metro area, devastating families. It happened at a Chesterfield home this week.

Officials say the family had just moved in a month before heavy flames brought down the roof in the middle of the night, causing extensive damage. The family’s saving grace was a working smoke detector.

“Smoke alarms did notify them of the smoke. They were able to get up, see some smoke and all 5 got out safely” said Lt. Jason Elmore, public information officer for Chesterfield Fire and EMS.

That family made it out alive, but Red Cross workers know all too well many fire victims don’t have such luck. Every eight seconds across the United States, there is a fire.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports in the first nine days of 2015, they’ve tracked seventy-four fatalities across the country. Two of those were in Virginia.

That’s why Red Cross workers and volunteers were on the front lines with firefighters in Prince George County Saturday. They were educating people about how to protect themselves against fire, especially this time of year.

“This has been a busy time for us,” said the Red Cross’ Jonathan McNamara. “The cold temperatures are here and people are turning on heaters and space heaters and this is when we see a significant uptick in fires. It is a relevant topic to be having."

The organization has started a new campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from house fires like the one we saw Saturday afternoon in Richmond.

The campaign push is for volunteers to join fire departments and canvass neighborhoods. The groups will install smoke alarms and educate people about fire safety.

It's what McNamara and other volunteers did in Prince George Saturday. They’ll do the same in the city of Richmond in the coming weeks.

“We want to reach as many families as possible to get them to understand that having just a quick conversation with children can make the difference between life and death if you do experience a fire."  McNamara explained.