With all of the lights, heat, and flammable decorations this time of year, it’s no wonder that the holiday season sees a spike in house fires. In fact, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and the American Red Cross have put out some staggering statistics regarding holiday-related house fires.
- Live Christmas trees that haven’t been watered properly can ignite and burn to the point of flashover in less than a minute.
- December has the highest number of fires started by candles of any month of the year, and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have the most reported fires.
- Decorations catching fire from being too close to a stove or other cooking equipment make up almost 20% of decoration fires.
- More than 500 people die each year from holiday-related fires.
House fires are devastating at all times of the year, but they can be particularly shattering when they happen around the holidays. If you know someone who has suffered from a total or partial loss due to a holiday-season house fire, you may feel overwhelmed with a desire to help but unsure how to go about it. While monetary donations are always safe, there are other ways you can go about helping people in need this holiday season.
The holidays are a time when you may already feel strapped for cash, so you may feel downright powerless to help if you cannot give monetary gifts. Don’t despair! If you have time and patience, there are plenty of ways that you can help someone get through the loss of their home without spending money.
- Help them salvage. After the fire department and insurance adjusters leave, the family usually feels completely overwhelmed by the mess caused by the fire. Unfortunately, there isn’t time for the family to sit around and mourn – there is important work to be done that needs to happen quickly. If you are close enough to the family, you may offer to help them salvage what they can from the wreckage. Be respectful and wait for directions from the person as to where you can work. Don’t be pushy or bossy, and try to be patient. There are a lot of feelings associated with the rubble, so don’t feel the need to talk or offer platitudes. Simply being present and doing what you are asked can be the greatest gift you can give.
- Point them to the professionals. Some cleanup work just requires elbow grease, but other efforts require a professional. Remind your friends or loved ones that they don’t have to do everything on their own, and point them to qualified Davis County fire restoration companies to perform tasks such as removing smoke and soot from ceilings, walls and other surfaces and replacing drywall and insulation that were soaked by fire hoses.
- Help with paperwork. The paperwork after a fire can seem like it’s never-ending, so if you have any experience with it, offer your services.
- Organize fundraisers. The thing about fire devastation is this: it takes a long time to replace the items the family needs. Sure, there is a significant expense right at the beginning as they replace the immediate needs, but that expense continues like a slow trickle over months and years as the family purchases things that are non-essential. If you’re looking to help them, start collecting gift cards from friends and family. Consider putting together a raffle in exchange for monetary donations for the family. You could even set up containers soliciting donations at prominent locations around town. Several online fundraising websites allow you to collect donations from people all over the world – not just in the immediate vicinity.
- Take in dinner. This is one of the simplest, yet most heartfelt, acts of service you can provide for the family. If you cook the food in sturdy containers that you don’t need back, it acts as a double present to help them replace their old dishes. In the same vein, you can always invite them over to your house for meals. This invitation can help take their minds off of their troubles for just a few hours as they interact with others in a home that is unaffected by disaster.
- Clean the new place. Your friends will be moving to a new location if the old one is unlivable. Offer to help them clean their new place. If you can spare it, leave the cleaning supplies after you go as a gift.
Think of the Children
Children are spared the adult responsibilities that come with house fires, but they still suffer greatly from the loss. While new clothes and toys are always appreciated, ask the parents for a list of their children’s old favorites that were lost in the fire. The familiar toys, clothes, and books can be very calming for children during the holiday season. You can also ask the parents if you can “borrow” their children for a few hours. This gives the children the attention they crave while allowing parents to process paperwork and do other cleanup without having children underfoot.
Of course, if you are looking to donate physical items, the family will need toiletries, furniture, school supplies, kitchen supplies, linens, cleaning supplies, and recreational items. If you’ve been thinking about buying new furniture or appliances for yourself, consider donating your old, working items to the family. Similarly, if you are going to donate clothing, give only new or gently used and clean clothing. Don’t donate anything that you wouldn’t wear or let your own children wear.
A house fire can absolutely shatter a family’s world, but with your care and compassion, it can be a little more bearable during the holiday season.