SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Two large fires in Onondaga County have left 13 people, including children, without a home.

The first happened at a home in Nedrow Sunday morning. Fire investigators say a heating element in a chicken coop caused the flames. Thankfully, the family was not home at the time of the fire.

The second fire broke out at the ABC Estates in the town of Clay. Flames destroyed a large portion of a fully occupied apartment building. Two women were treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation. Fire investigators have deemed this a total loss.

As crews put out the fires, volunteers at the American Red Cross also help families recover. When there’s a fire or natural disaster, either emergency management or fire crews will call in the American Red Cross Disaster Relief team to respond, especially if families are involved.

The Central and Northern New York Chapter of the American Red Cross will respond to about 3 disasters every single day. Most times, they’re house fires, according to Lisa Smith, executive director of the Central and Northern New York Chapter.

“When you talk to the fire departments, they really rely on us because the firefighters have to fight the fire, and not that they don’t want to take time with the survivors or the people that they just rescued, but they can’t. They have to focus on battling the fire. So, that’s where we come in. We take the people.”


As soon as disaster relief volunteers arrive to the scene, they put victims on the road to recovery.

“Often, they come out in the middle of the night. They have no shoes. They’re wearing pajamas. They’ve left all their identification, their medicines. They have nothing, and they just got out in the nick of time,” Smith explained.

The American Red Cross Disaster Relief truck is always on scene when volunteers respond to an incident. It’s stocked with all the essentials for victims like blankets, diapers, food, clothing, medicine and more.

Volunteers will put people up in hotels if they’ve been evacuated. The Red Cross will also provide families with financial assistance as they navigate the road to recovery.

Every time an American Red Cross volunteer goes out, you can be assured the services will be the exact support the people need


With any type of disaster comes trauma, especially for young children. Smith said most instances where children experience a fire or natural disaster, mental health services are asked for.

“It could be health services, veterans’ services, mental health services, a variety of different things to make sure they can sustain themselves,” Smith explained.

After the initial response, the Red Cross Case Management Team will continue to work with victims. After that, volunteers will refer individuals and families to other community partners.

The American Red Cross Central and Northern New York Chapter has a dedicated team of over 700 active volunteers. If you’re interested in joining to make a difference, click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities.