Friday, April 24, 2015

"Get out of the house! The house is on fire!"

It was 1:30pm on December 2, 2013. Michael Cuerton was alone in the kitchen of his Buffalo home when the smoke alarm
went off.

“I smelled smoke, but I didn't know where it was coming from,” Michael said. “I went to different rooms but I didn't see any smoke.” The next thing he knew, there was more smoke and it was coming from a back room.

“A neighbor was yelling, ‘Get out of the house! The house is on fire!’, and I knew I had to get out fast.”-Michael Cureton

Meanwhile, someone had called the police and the fire department. “The house was still standing, but it was a total loss,” said Michael. He was approached by some neighbors who told him that the Red Cross would be able to help him out.

Red Cross volunteers responded to 1,160 home fires
and other disasters in the Western and Central
New York Region last year
“Two Red Cross volunteers came up to me. They were friendly, very nice, very informative and they told me everything I needed to do,” he explained. The volunteers put Michael up in a hotel and gave him funding for some food and clothing to help him get back on his feet. He then met with our caseworkers, who helped him navigate through the recovery process. Thankfully, Michael had insurance, because he stayed in that hotel until moving into his new home on July 31 of the following year.

“Until you have an incident, you kind of take things for granted. I always hear that the Red Cross is about blood drives, but I never knew you get yourselves involved with people who lost their homes in fires like I did and put things in motion to help out like what you did for me.”-Michael Cureton

Last month, Michael made a surprise visit to our Buffalo office.

“My mother always said, show your appreciation,” Michael said.  “You guys helped me out, so I figured hey, you guys could always use a donation. So I came in to make a donation. That’s the way I was raised!”

On an average day in America, seven people die and 36 suffer injuries in home fires, and $7 billion worth of property is damaged every year. The American Red Cross and its partners have launched an initiative that aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25% in five years.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as 2 minutes to escape a burning home when a fire breaks out but many Americans have a false sense of security about surviving a fire. The Red Cross is asking every household in America to join us in taking two simple steps that can save lives: checking or installing smoke alarms, and practicing fire drills at home.

“Smoke detectors are a must,” Michael says after his experience.

As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross can install free smoke alarms in homes that need them. Contact your local Red Cross Chapter (in Buffalo, 716-878-2356 or to schedule an installation.