Charleston (WCSC) - The Lowcountry chapter of the American Red Cross assisted 16 people after three house fires in the greater Charleston area this weekend.
A Sunday night blaze in Summerville may have started in an electrical outlet, says the Old Fort Fire Department. Four people were displaced.
Fires in North Charleston and Smoaks (outside Walterboro in Colleton County) are still under investigation according to area fire departments. Four adults and an additional four adults and four children are out of their home as well, respectively.
"We've assisted 57 people in 13 days," says Red Cross Regional Executive Director Louise Welch. "The total number of people who have been helped by the Red Cross since July 1 now stands at 439."
While alternative, and often flammable, heating sources such as space heaters have something to do with those near record numbers, Welch says the economy plays a significant role as well. With layoffs and unemployment the highest they've been in years, Welch says families have had to blend together; moving in together to cut down on rent and other bills.
"We're assisting more families in need," says Welch, "more people living in one household, multi-generations living in one household."
As a result, Welch says instead of servicing two or three from a single fire, that number is often times tripled. Welch adds that typical relief includes a stay in a hotel for shelter and a debit care for food and clothing replacement; amenities paid for by public donation which too in 2009, has been a struggle. The National Non-Profit Finance Fund reported earlier this year that just 16 percent of organizations nation wide will cover basic operating expenses for the year.
"Raising money in this economy is a challenge," says Welch. "We don't get federal or state funding. We depend solely on support from the community."