Red Cross Responds to Increasing Number of Fatality Fires in Missouri

15 fatal fire responses in Missouri from November through January.

(Kansas City, MO) – Feb. 10, 2020 The American Red Cross is urging residents to ensure they have a working smoke alarm and fire escape plan following a number of residential fires across the state of Missouri this winter that included fatalities and severe injuries.

“The Red Cross is typically called to more fatal fires in the winter, and unfortunately, that’s what we have seen in the past three months in Missouri,” said Chris Harmon, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas. “The majority of these fatal fire responses have occurred just since November 1, with several of them affecting children and individuals age 60 and over.”

Since July 1, 2019, the Red Cross has responded to 20 fatal fires in Missouri. Fifteen of the 20 fires occurred from November through January. Ten of the 15 included children and individuals age 60 and over. 

“We know that working smoke alarms and a family escape plan greatly reduce fire deaths,” Harmon added.

These statistics reflect fires the Red Cross has been asked to respond to in order to assist those affected. The Red Cross partners with local fire departments to respond to home fires throughout the state.

“We often see an increase in fires during cold weather due to heating sources, especially space heaters, so we urge everyone to be careful with supplemental heating devices,”  State Fire Marshal Tim Bean said. “Never leave space heaters on while sleeping or when you leave a room; keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn; and always follow manufacturer’s recommendations about proper use.”

Bean said working smoke alarms are essential, and cut the risk of dying in a fire by one-half.

“Once a fire starts, residents might have just two minutes or less to escape before they’re overcome by smoke, so having working smoke  alarms installed through the home provides early warning, which could mean the difference between life an death,” Bean said.

In the U.S., home fires take seven lives a day.

As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the American Red Cross in Missouri, in partnership with local fire departments across the state, has installed more than 11,2000 alarms in the state in 2019, making more than 4,500 homes safer.

The Red Cross provides free smoke alarms to anyone who needs them and also installs them. Individuals may request alarms through www.getasmokealarm.org or by calling 1-800-Red-Cross.