As the city of Sumter saw Friday, fires can affect more than just those who live in a burning home, and one worldwide nonprofit disaster-relief organization was on hand for two vastly different situations.
Even though the early morning warehouse …
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Even though the early morning warehouse blaze was a non-residential, victimless fire, the American Red Cross still responded to the scene to help the firefighters.
According to area volunteer Steve Schumake, the Red Cross is called to help serve wherever there is human suffering, and firefighters battling a blaze for several hours are included in that.
After receiving a call from
Sumter Fire Battalion Chief Joey Duggan about 6 a.m. Friday - already two hours after the 400,000-square-foot commercial fire began burning plastic and carpet fibers - the Red Cross was on hand with coffee and breakfast items by 7:30 a.m. At that time, Sumter Fire Department had about 50 volunteer and career firefighters battling the massive blaze in the Hauser Street warehouse.
Whenever the request is made specifically from the fire department, the Red Cross will come and provide services to include nutrition, hydration and meals to keep the firefighters fortified, Schumake said.
The Red Cross provided about 55 meals for breakfast Friday morning and an additional 50 for lunch, Schumake estimated.
"We call them, and they support us with food, drinks and other items from area fast-food restaurants and stores," Duggan said. "We receive overwhelming support from numerous agencies that we work with in one accord."
Just hours later, when the same department was called to Sumter Historic District for a double residential fire, where a blaze started in one and spread to its next-door neighbor, Red Cross volunteers were also there.
This time, they had to let a family know their house was severely damaged.
The two adults and five children, all under the age of 12, all lived in one house, according to Cuthbert Langley, communications director for the South Carolina Red Cross. The other was vacant.
While they were needed in the morning to hand out food, water and Gatorade, Langley said the afternoon response called for empathy and comfort - and Mickey Mouse stuffed animals for the children.
No matter what the call is, Langley said, they're there when needed. Always for the displaced and the victims, especially for the first responders.
"These," he said, "are our heroes."
- Bruce Mills and Kayla Robins
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