Red Cross helps at least 53 people after 20 weekend fires in Hampton Roads

A New Year's Day fire on Goolagong Drive in Virginia Beach displaced a family of eight.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Fire has taken a toll on many local families over the weekend.  Since Friday, there have been 20 fires across Hampton Roads, which means a lot of people are starting their new year with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Since Friday, the Red Cross has helped 53 people here in Hampton Roads. That assistance can mean anything from a friendly face and warm hug, to clothes and a place to stay.  With all of the response comes the need for resources — which means more volunteers.

“24/7, we are here in your local community responding to home fires,” said Marissa Nihill, Executive Director of the Red Cross Coastal Chapter.  “It’s been challenging.”

Nihill says the Red Cross usually responds to eight fires per week in Hampton Roads.  But this past weekend, their response seemed constant.  She says they’re used to seeing more fires in the winter, but this weekend was extreme.

“They’ve just seen people who just celebrated the holidays and now maybe they lost everything they just got, so it’s been emotionally charged,” Nihill said.

She says it’s these busy weekends that show that their greatest resource is the one they can always use more of.

“Times like these we always think of: we need more volunteers,” said Nihill.  She says what these volunteers do is crucial to a family’s recovery after losing a home.

Nihill said, “Telling those people we’re here for you, that we help them find a place to stay if they don’t have one, make sure they feel supported and then we begin casework with them to help them get through that devastating process of losing their home.”

Of course, Nihill hopes people take the time to learn about fire safety, by paying attention to space heaters and making sure smoke detectors work.  Most importantly, she says every family should have a plan.

“You have less than two minutes to get out from a fire,”  Nihill said.  “If nothing else from this weekend, I want our fellow Hampton Roads community to know, please have a plan to get out of your house and talk about that with your family.”

If you’d like to volunteer with the Red Cross or donate blood, visit their website.