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Spate of fires keeps Red Cross busy

A bad weekend for house fires meant a busy week for the American Red Cross.

Forty-five area residents are getting help from the agency with housing, food and clothing in the wake of fires that damaged 13 city residences.

Most of the homes remain unavailable for occupancy and will not be ready for some time, said Jay Bonafede, the agency's communications coordinator.

The Red Cross deploys volunteers from its Disaster Action Team to respond to fires. The local Red Cross has about 100 volunteers, 11 of whom responded to the calls over the holiday weekend.

Displaced residents were given vouchers to help meet their needs through the Memorial Day weekend and Tuesday met with volunteers to discuss their continuing needs. There is no set amount of time for how long the Red Cross will assist them; everything is determined on a case-by-case basis, Bonafede said Wednesday.

The Red Cross responds, on average, to one fire per day in the Buffalo Niagara region, providing displaced residents vouchers for hotels, food and clothing, as well as other assistance. In rare cases, shelters are set up for families.

The Red Cross primarily focuses on immediate assistance and lets the families "take a lead role in their own recovery," Bonafede said.

The agency is advising the recently displaced residents who believe they are able to return home to contact the city to properly inspect the house, he said.

Those residents lived in homes that were damaged on Kingsley, Barthel, 14th, Freund and Best streets, and Humason and Elmwood avenues.

Diane Sargent, a resident of Lockport and volunteer for more than 10 years, said volunteers help residents assess damage and determine the need for shelter, food and clothing. "As soon as it's safe to go inside their home, we will go in and do the assessment," she said.

Sargent responded to two fires over the weekend, one at an apartment complex on Elmwood Avenue, which displaced seven people from four units, and another on 14th Street, where 12 people from two families were displaced.

It costs $1,000 on average to assist a displaced family of four. To donate, go to