Red-CrossThere have been a lot of home fires in recent days around the state and Kara Kelly, with the American Red Cross in Des Moines, says volunteers from her agency are working to help the victims.

“We’ve been incredibly busy the last four days…with 15 home fires since Friday,” Kelly said.

Those fires have occurred in Lamoni, Centerville, Des Moines, Denison, Libertyville, Hampton, Albert City, Strawberry Point, Dubuque, Charles City, Ogden, and Cedar Rapids.

The Red Cross volunteers are helping more than 60 Iowans affected by the fires. “In most cases, the homes are deemed unlivable so we want to make sure they have a hotel, or a family member, or somebody to stay with. From there, we make sure they have money for clothes and food. We want to move them toward recovery,” Kelly said.

Temperatures are expected to plummet around Iowa in the coming days, so Kelly is urging Iowans to be cautious when heating their homes. “Typically, when the temperature starts to go down and people start to use alternative heating sources like space heaters and fireplaces, we tend to see an uptick in home fires,” Kelly said. “We really want people to be aware of some safety tips so they can make sure they stay safe.”

To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends the following tips:

  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned if necessary.
  •  If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.