It was a lazy afternoon on the last Sunday of January. Texas City resident Clarence Seagroves had dozed off in his recliner watching a football game on television. However, the peace of the afternoon was shattered by a firefighter rushing into his apartment to tell him that the building was on fire and he needed to get out.


Texas City resident Clarence Seagrove apartment on fire

Seagroves had an all-too-common experience. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there is a home fire in the United States every 23 seconds resulting in an average of seven deaths per day and $7 billion in property damage each year. Fortunately, on this cold January day, Seagroves and his fellow residents of the Savan Villa apartments escaped the fire without injury. Local fire officials said 24 apartments, 19 of which were occupied, were heavily damaged, leaving the residents temporarily disoriented and homeless. This is where the American Red Cross steps in — to help people on what, for many, is the worst day of their lives.

“I was in a state of shock,” Seagroves said. Within an hour of him being roused from his nap by a fireman, Seagroves’s needs were being attended to by a Red Cross volunteer. After helping him contact his family to assure them he was unharmed, the Red Cross volunteer found him a motel room and gave him a gift card to buy food and clothing. “I’ve got no complaints about the Red Cross stepping up immediately to help me get some normalcy.”

Nationwide, the Red Cross assists families displaced by home fires 170 times a day. In a typical year, home fires kill more people in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. The Red Cross works with partners in each community to help fire victims rebuild and recover. 

The organization also engages in fire safety programs such as “Sound the Alarm” to help prevent disasters before they happen and help people know what they should do when confronted by a home fire. Since its launch in 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has made more than a million homes safer, installed more than 2 million smoke alarms and saved well over 1,000 lives.

Seagroves, 62, describes himself as a “pretty tough cookie.” But he says the loss of his apartment and all his belongings left him somewhat bewildered.  That’s why he is so grateful to the Red Cross for helping him get back on his feet.

“In my opinion, the Red Cross is 110 percent,” Seagroves said.

Fire safety experts say people may have as little as two minutes to escape a home fire before it is too late. To learn more about developing a home fire escape plan and access other free resources, visit www.redcross.org/homefires for more information.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or follow us on Twitter at @texasgulfcoastredcross.

Story by David Guth