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Local spike in holiday season fires leave multiple families homeless

Posted at 10:06 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 23:20:02-05

CLEVELAND — The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross reported nearly three dozen people, including nine children were left temporarily homeless following a series of house fires on Dec. 7 and 8.

The fires took place in Cleveland, Lorain, Eastlake, Mansfield and Cadiz, Ohio.

Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Ben Bellucci told News 5 team members responded, providing financial assistance and comfort kits that include personal hygiene items.

“We generally see people at their darkest hours,” Bellucci said.

“One minute everything is fine, then five minutes later they’re standing at the corner and they don’t have anything left, and so for us to be that little bit of hope, that little bit of light, that's what we try to do everyday.”

“Preparedness is key, it’s having a plan, having a kit, knowing where to go in case of an emergency."

The Red Cross reported one of the fires near downtown Cleveland forced eight adults to flee in the middle of the night on Saturday.

Another fire on East 111th Street in Cleveland struck the home of James Booth, who lost nearly everything he owns.

Booth gave credit to the American Red Cross in helping him through one of the most difficult times of his life and issued a holiday season warning to homeowners.

"The Red Cross are wonderful people, put it like that," Booth said.

"They help out, they were here before the fire was out."

“Be very careful, very careful, keep watching it, don’t leave nothing on. If you’re going to go to bed, turn the Christmas lights off.”

Cleveland Fire Department Public Information Officer Mike Norman told News 5 home heating, holiday cooking and electrical devices are the leading causes of fire in December.

Norman said one of the biggest villains is aging electrical Christmas decorations.

“You want to look at those ornaments and the electrical wires and so forth every year to make sure they’re not worn or cracked, make sure the insulation is still intact," Norman said.

“People fire up their furnace, they’re using space heaters, those can be sources for fires, and also with the holidays, people are stretching lights, using electricity.”

Fortunately, there were no injuries reported in the series of weekend fires.

“I was gone 45 minutes, I was on my way back home and neighbors called and said your house is on fire,” Booth said.

“I’m lucky, you know, because I could have been in there when the fire started. I think God still got a plan for me.”