Officials with the Flint River Chapter of the American Red Cross are shocked by the number of home fires they're responding to, weeks before the usual fire season begins.
The Red Cross provides relief to fire victims and they're worried they won't have enough money to serve everyone who needs help.
This is National Fire Prevention Week, when people are reminded to safeguard their home against the number one threat to their homes, fires. The Red Cross chapter based in Albany is already seeing a lot of home fires, and hope to prevent more family tragedies.
The fire at Gene Jones' home on Green Lane in Worth County was one of three house fires that the Flint River Chapter of the American Red Cross responded to over the weekend.
Jones' home and all his family belongings, two cars, and a motorcycle were lost in the blaze. The American Red Cross is providing assistance to his family of 6, just like they provide to more than 82 thousand families nationwide every year.
"We actually put the people in a place to stay, in a motel for up to 3 nights. We provide vouchers for them to get new bedding, clothing, for storage, and for food. So we are able to go in and just give them an immediate way to get a plan to get back on their feet again," said Flint River Chapter of the American Red Cross Executive Director Lara Gill.
Last year the Flint River Chapter helped 250 fire victim families and paid out more than 16 thousand dollars in Dougherty County alone. And they cover 24 South Georgia counties.
Already this year the number of fire victims they are helping has them concerned, because they expect to see many more in the coming months.
"You can expect fire season our cases will definitely pick up every single day. People turn on those space heaters and that sort of thing. So we want people to be very careful," said Gill.
Prevention is key. The American Red Cross recommends this Fire Prevention Week you test your smoke alarms. Unattended candles and cooking are two of the most frequent causes of home fires that can be prevented. Electrical cords that are hidden under rugs or furniture can also start fires. Also to save lives, make a fire escape plan and practice it.
"You need to have a plan where you can get out of any room in your home from two different locations," said Gill.
They also recommend as part of that escape plan, have a place set for the family to meet once they get out of the house fire, and never go back in."
The cause of the Jones' family home is still under investigation by the Worth County Fire Department. The American Red Cross hopes prevention will keep more families from suffering the loss they have this week.
If you would like to donate to the American Red Cross and make sure your money stays in South Georgia can call 436-4845 or drop off a check at 500 Pine Avenue in Albany.