Pee Dee fires burn hole in Red Cross budget

Florence, SC - FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – A surge in fires in the Pee Dee recently worries leaders of the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

The chapter's Executive Director Linda Boone-Smith said the Pee Dee Red Cross responded to 38 fires in the 28 days of February. Since the budget year began in June, the chapter has responded to 200 fires.

On average, the Pee Dee chapter responds to about 280 fires per year, so currently the chapter is close to average. However, Boone-Smith worries the figures from February may be a sign that an increase in fires may be on the way.

On Saturday, a fire at the Sedgfield Apartments forced 15 people out of their homes. They all needed assistance from the Red Cross, Boone-Smith said.

The assistance is made possible through donations to the Red Cross, but Boone-Smith said she is worried that a continued surge in fires may put strain on the Red Cross chapter's budget.

She said several fundraisers gave money to the Haiti Relief fund this year. However, many of those fundraisers were not specially organized for Haiti. Instead they were annual campaigns or other efforts previously planned to give money to the local chapter. Instead that money was diverted to Haiti, meaning less money in the local chapter's budget.

"We want continued support for Haiti. We need continued support for Haiti and all other disasters," Boone-Smith said. "So we encourage people to give to our disaster relief fund instead of specifying or designating it specifically. That way it can go anywhere it needs to go."

"Let's say there's a single family fire that doesn't get the media attention, those people are just as homeless," Boone-Smith continued. "That's what we try to get people to understand is there are neighbors across the street who need it as well."

The Pee Dee chapter of the American Red Cross is currently organizing the annual Heroes fundraising campaign.

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