After busy year, Red Cross director stresses importance of insurance and heater safety
A family of six, including four small children ages 18 months to six years, lost all their belongings in a house fire Sunday, Jan. 2, while an elderly man living alone lost his home in a Dec. 26 blaze.
April and Kevin Holt rented their house in Pickens West Estates where they lived with their four children. According to Andy Thompson, Director of Community Services for the Northeast Georgia Chapter of the Red Cross, the afternoon fire that destroyed the house was the result of a faulty stove.
“They were cooking, but it wasn’t a grease fire,” Thompson said. “It started somewhere in the stove.”
The exterior of the Pickens West home appears to be intact, but Thompson said the interior of the house was completely destroyed.
“It was gutted,” he said. “They lost almost everything. The fire department was able to salvage a few things, but if the fire doesn’t get it, the smoke or water damage will.”
Thompson said no one was injured in the Pickens West fire. Red Cross provided the family of six with lodging for two nights and a debit card for food and clothing.
The Hinton volunteer fire station and Pickens County Fire and Rescue responded to this call.
In a separate fire this past Sunday, 74-year-old James Brannon’s home on Eagle Ridge Road in the Yellow Creek area was destroyed in a blaze that began in the chimney, Thompson said.
“He had the chimney cleaned,” Thompson noted, “but wood fires are extremely dangerous.”
Thompson said the gentleman lived alone with his dog and was not injured in the blaze.
The Mica/Yellow Creek fire unit from Cherokee County, some Dawson County units, and Grandview and Tate fire departments from Pickens County responded to the fire.
Thompson said in 2010 the Red Cross responded to more house fires in Pickens than they have in the past, and he stressed the importance of homeowners or renters keeping insurance and using extra safety precautions with heaters during winter months.
"In my 15-plus years of Red Cross work, the single most neglected and affordable item people lack is renter's insurance,” Thompson said. “This coverage is for the contents of the rental structure only and is very inexpensive."
Thompson said it is important this time of year to have all heating units serviced with new filters to be sure they are in working order and to be extremely careful when using wood heat as a primary or supplemental heat source.
He also advised that all space heaters be placed away from children and pets.
If you would like to make a donation to the Red Cross to help ensure that disaster victims in Pickens County get essential food, shelter, and clothing assistance, please contact the Jasper Red Cross office at 706-253-7333 or send your donation to American Red Cross Northeast Georgia Chapter, 1266 East Church Street, Suite 154, Jasper, Ga. 30143.