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Surge of fires has Elkhart Countys Red Cross concerned

ELKHART, Ind. -- A surge of fires has the Elkhart County Red Cross concerned.

“In the last month, we’ve had eight fires. Including, unfortunately, a couple of fatalities. Which is about twice the historical average,” said Doug Farmwald, Emergency Services Coordinator.

Farmwald said six were electrical fires, and two are ongoing arson investigations.

But of all eight families affected, only one reported they heard the smoke alarm.

“It’s a problem here, it’s a problem everywhere. As with any disaster, it’s always easier to think of it happening to someone else. And fortunately most of the time it does happen to someone else, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune,” Farmwald said.

Farmwald noted that while most of the fires did not leave the homes completely destroyed, the family is still seriously affected.

“Even a minor fire that forces you out of your house is a pretty big disaster to that family,” said Farmwald. “Even if the house is salvageable, it’s still filled with smoke, still filled with water, and the family still has to leave.”

Farmwald said since summer is usually a low time for fires, he is worried it will only get worse.

“The fire incidences tend to go up as heating season starts. So if we’re having a lot of fires now, as the weather gets colder and people start using heaters and furnaces start kicking back on, we’re concerned that it could go up even more,” said Farmwald.

Since smoke detectors are the best defense against a fire, the Red Cross is organizing its second annual Project SAFE, which stands for smoke alarms for everyone.

On Oct. 1, volunteers will go to over 10,000 homes to pass out fire prevention information, batteries to check smoke detectors in the homes, and smoke detectors for families who need them.

The American Red Cross Elkhart County chapter is still looking for volunteers. More information is online at



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