By Alysha Conner
INGLEWOOD — A local family is receiving care from the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region after their home caught fire the morning of Dec. 17.
Firefighters from Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 18, based in Inglewood, extinguished the fire but deemed the residence unfit for the family’s return, so fire officials called on the Red Cross for assistance.
“Because of the extent of damage, we went ahead and dispatched the Red Cross to assist the three family members that lived in the residence,” county Fire Inspector Henry Narvaez said. “We determined that no one would be able to go back into the house, and the Red Cross would have to come out to make arrangements for them to stay that night.
“After we put the fire out, we can’t just get up and leave. Those days of us coming in there, busting down the front door, squirting water, then getting back on the fire engine and going back home are over,” Narvaez added. “The Red Cross is one of our most essential partners and advocates for the community. Their role is vital in these situations. And they are always professional when they show up and take over.”
The disaster action team from the Western Los Angeles Chapter of the Red Cross responded to the fire department’s call to help coordinate emergency aid for the family.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
“Units on scene found a working fire on a one-story residence, with heavy smoke to the rear of the unit,” Narvaez said. “So, they forced entry, and then they made their way in with the hose trying to extinguish the fire.
“What happens is that the smoke usually causes more damage than the fire,” he added, “which is what occurred in this case.”
The Red Cross said its local disaster action team is available to provide emergency assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to anyone displaced by a disaster.
The Red Cross will continue to provide assistance and address the family’s disaster-caused needs until they can recover.
“We’re more geared towards the public and what we can do best for the public,” Narvaez said. “The Red Cross has teamed up with us and does an exceptional job with getting their own team to the scene fairly quickly. They usually come with two or three personnel that can handle different avenues.
“They’re very strategic with helping the victims and letting them know, ‘We’ve done this time and time again. We know you’re going to need this. And even though you’re not thinking about this part, we’re going to go ahead and tell you what you need to do for tomorrow. We’ll let you know what numbers to call.’ That’s the role of the Red Cross.”
The Red Cross offers assistance with finding temporary shelter, clothing, food and other emergency services. All of its resources are paid for by donors and grants.
“We have a lot of new safety protocols due to COVID-19,” said Nedan Rambo, disaster program director at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. “We want to make sure all of the volunteers and the clients are safe. So, we are sometimes in person, and sometimes we do interviews over the phone. We usually try and make sure that within a good 10 to 15 minutes, we’ve already reached out to them to find solutions.
“Our caseworkers will continue to work with the family essentially until the family feels like they don’t need our help anymore,” Rambo said. “The caseworkers have a database where they can tap into local nonprofits and talk to government entities. They basically are experts in all sorts of resources.
“They call the client every few days or so, and they keep working with them to ask, ‘What are the things that you need? How can we help you?’ Then we help connect them with those resources. We essentially stay with the client until they no longer need our help.”
Alysha Conner is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers Inglewood. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.