Increase in fires impacts resources at Northland Red Cross

By KBJR News 1

February 27, 2014 Updated Feb 27, 2014 at 7:46 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)---Structure fires have plagued the Duluth Fire Department during this cold, brutal winter.

"We're almost double the amount of structure fires that we have averaged over the last four years or five years so they're up significantly," said Deputy Fire Chief Charlie Smith with the Duluth Fire Department.

While fires are down somewhat over the last five years, there has been a spike in fires this winter. From November First to February 27th, the fire department battled 31 blazes, compared to 20 last year. 21 of those fires were from January First to February 27th.

"We've had winters where we've had not as many fires but more significant in size, but this is one of the busiest couple of months that we have had that I can remember," said Smith.

With this increase in winter fires, the American Red Cross has been called out to assist more families.

"Just in the Lake, St Louis and Douglas County Areas- so just in the Twin Ports here , in the 91 days after Thanksgiving we have responded to 37 individual home fires, which is a lot of families really devastated by this," said Dan Williams, Executive Director of the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross.

To put that in perspective, the Northland chapter of the Red Cross typically responds to 100 disasters per year in this region and are already a third of the way there in just three months.

"We really anticipate probably being up for the year a substantial amount and in our region which is about the northern two-thirds of Minnesota and a few counties in Wisconsin we're up 38% in fires in the last two months," said Williams.

This increase in assistance has left the Red Cross strapped for cash.
Catastrophic disasters like the typhoon in the Phillipines and the tornadoes in Illinois last year had people donating nationally rather than locally. The red cross relies on donations and is struggling to provide for the families in need.

"We're down donations a little bit from last year. So anyone that can support the local chapter and the work we do is really appreciated," said Williams.

If people wish to donate to the American Red Cross, you can do so here or donations are accepted at the Northland Chapter of the Red Cross office at 2524 Maple Grove Road.

While fires in Duluth have increased, The news across the bridge in Superior is a little bitter.

There's actually been a decrease in fires from last winter to this winter in Superior.

Last winter the Superior Fire Department battled 16 blazes compared to 12 this winter.

Battalion Chief Vern Johnson credits Superior's efforts to sharpen their fire inspection program over the last year.

Written and posted to the web by Raeanna Marnati