Homes without power increase fire hazards - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Homes without power increase fire hazards

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -A South Albany house fire early this morning started from a candle because the home had no electricity.

As people continue to struggle to pay their bills, more people are having to live without electricity.  Now the Red Cross worries that could lead to more fires.

Albany Water Gas and Light cut power to 20 percent more customers in June 2009 than they did one year ago.

The Red Cross says people will do what they have to do to get by, and in this family's case, a candle cost them what few possessions they had.

Fire swept through the house at 517 Odom Avenue around three Tuesday morning.

Firefighters say Marlon Harper was living there without electricity because he couldn't afford it.

A candle on top of a clothes hamper was being used to light a bedroom. Luckily everyone in the house got out alive.

Sadly, the Red Cross predicts more fires in homes without electricity.

soundbite 17:24:52 Executive Director Mari Wright said "I'm afraid we may. Yes, I really am."

Albany Water Gas and Light says the bad economy and job layoffs have left more families in the dark, with electrical service cut for non-payment of power bills.

17:16:12 Albany WGL Director of Fiscal Affairs John Vansant, III said "219 of that cycle is due to be cut off today."

W.G.and L. Cut off service to 4122 customerd in June, up from 3400 in June 2008.

While cutoffs were suspended during a recent dangerous heat wave, temperatures are closer to normal now and cutoffs are on the rise.

The Red Cross says people living in homes without power face a higher chance of fire danger.

 Wright said "Yes it can, because people when their service is cut off, and they means of candelight, other ways to see and read, and even cook."

Red Cross officials warn the increasing number of people living without power to use extreme caution.

Albany Water Gas and Light has a program to help people with special trouble paying their utility bill, but that money for the month has already been used. And officials say other charity groups that help people make utility payments are also stretched thin by the great need.

W.G.and L. Commissioners recently voted to put $5000 a month into the bill aid program for those in need, but admit the need is much greater.

Albany Red Cross officials say they have not seen an increase so far this year in fires at homes without electricity, but they expect to see more in the coming months.

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