Officials with the American Red Cross in Iowa say it costs the agency significantly more money each year to respond to house fires than to larger natural disasters. Megan Chamberlain, response director for the Red Cross’ Central Iowa chapter, says most people don’t realize the threat fires pose. Chamberlain says the Red Cross responded to 542 single-family fires across Iowa during the past fiscal year.
While larger disasters may involve more people, she says much more effort and money is spent on the fires. Several tornadoes cut through central Iowa last fall, causing heavy damage in two towns — but Chamberlain says the Red Cross response to fires was some 20-times higher. She says an average of 420-thousand dollars is spent per year on single-family disasters in Iowa, which are offset by donations.
For the larger disasters in the past year, Chamberlain says perhaps 20-or-25-thousand dollars was spent, including the tornadoes that hit Woodward and Stratford. Due to skyrocketing heating costs, many more Iowans are using space heaters or fireplaces to accent their furnaces this winter, which Chamberlain says is a practice that’s sparking many more fires.
Chamberlain says single-family fires often don’t make the news but they are very devastating to the families involved and the general public doesn’t know how often they happen. She says a national Red Cross poll found Americans were not aware of how common house fires are: two-thirds of those surveyed ranked floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and mudslides as greater threats than home fires.