House Fires Lead American Red Cross List of 2003's Highest Impact Disasters

                                         Approximately 93 percent of Red Cross disaster responses are fires.

     During a year of headlines filled with raging wildfires, devastating tornadoes, damaging hurricanes, and relentless floods, the American Red Cross provided relief for more than 805,000 families in a year that called for 243 large-scale disaster responses by the organization to incidents across the country.
     The destruction of the Southern California Wildfires, Hurricane Isabel, and the Midwest Tornadoes forced thousands of families from their homes, in some situations, with only the clothes they were wearing.  While the Red Cross assisted during these and dozens of other large-scale disasters, the majority of disaster relief operations were coordinated by Red Cross chapters responding locally to more than 72,000 community disasters, most of which were single-family house fires.  In fact, house fires account for approximately 93 percent of all Red Cross disaster responses in 2003, and that category leads the compilation of the five highest impact disasters.
     The top five American Red Cross disaster responses for 2003 are:
  • Fires - single-family, multiple-family fires and wildfires (continually)
  • Multiple-state Tornadoes (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, May 2003)
  • Southern California Wildfires (October-November 2003)
  • Hurricane Isabel (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, September 2003)
  • Hurricane Claudette (Texas, July 2003)
     This ranking was determined based on number of families assisted, severity of damage to residences, aggregate totals of Red Cross disaster services provided, and the costs of providing that relief.
     "Every eight minutes, the Red Cross brings comfort and relief to the victims of disaster - your neighbor, family member, employee or friend," said Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans. "Although many of these disasters, such as single family house fires, may not make headlines, they are equally as devastating as a tornado or flood to those affected.  To the family or individual who has lost everything, there is no such thing as a 'small' disaster."
     Red Cross disaster relief services are delivered through the efforts of more than 900 local Red Cross chapters in communities large and small and are underwritten by the goodwill of the American public nationwide.  The safety net for all Red Cross relief operations is the Disaster Relief Fund, which ensures an immediate response for all disaster victims, yet to date this fund remains dangerously low.
     "When you reach out to help victims of high visibility disasters, remember that your local Red Cross chapter is there for disaster victims in your community each and every day.  Your Red Cross needs your help to ensure that all disaster victims receive the care and compassion they deserve," Evans said.
     Your help is needed to ensure that the American Red Cross can be there wherever and whenever disaster strikes.  Please make a donation to the Disaster Relief Fund today by calling 1-800-HELP NOW.
     All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people.  You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need.  Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).  Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to the American Red Cross, Milford Chapter, 1 Plymouth Place, Milford, CT.  Internet users can make secure online credit card donations by visiting  Also, donations are being collected at Coinstar machines at local grocery stores across America.  To find the nearest Coinstar machine, visit

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