Posted on October 8, 2013

Fresno: Red Cross, PG&E Celebrate Return of Team Firestopper in the Central Valley

From left, PG&E’s Raj Beasla, Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier, Kerri Donis, Red Cross’ Alex Villa and Ivonne De Torosian, and (front) PG&E’s Angela Vega and Red Cross’ Ellen Knapp at Tuesday's event. (Photos courtesy Red Cross Central Valley.).

FRESNO — Every 15 hours, American Red Cross relief teams come to the aid of victims of home fires — providing food, clothing, temporary shelter and much, much more.

In an effort to educate families on how to prevent home fires, officials from the American Red Cross Central Valley Region and PG&E today (Oct. 8) kicked off the return of the third season of Team Firestopper. The educational program is unique to the Valley and expected to benefit tens of thousands of residents.

The announcement on the return of the program coincides with National Fire Prevention Week.

The lunchtime event at the Fresno Fire Department Museum was attended by about 80 guests including California State Assembly Member Henry T. Perea and Kerri Donis, Fresno’s interim fire chief, both of whom spoke, along with Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier. Amber Stewart, who at age 11 is credited with saving her family from a house fire, also shared her story.

Over the next six months, Team Firestopper volunteers – which includes PG&E employees – will canvass more than 23,000 homes to distribute lifesaving fire-safety information. Residents will be invited to turn out for community fairs where they learn life-saving tips and receive a free smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, surge protector and fire extinguisher.

Kerri Donis, Fresno’s interim fire chief, spoke about preventing fires.

“This education is extremely important since volunteers in the Central Valley are responding to families affected by a home fire every 15 hours,” Ellen Knapp, regional chief executive officer for the Central Valley region, said about the program.

Last year, Central Valley Red Cross responded to 586 local disasters, 90 percent of which were residential fires. More than 2,042 men, women and children were assisted with food, clothing and shelter. And these disasters often involve the loss of irreplaceable belongings, entire homes and even family members.

Team Firestopper, launched in February 2012, is a comprehensive outreach and training program on the simple steps that residents can take to protect their homes and families from fires. It targets communities that have high incidents of fires within the seven-county region served by the Red Cross Central Valley chapter.

The program is part of a larger partnership between PG&E and the Red Cross.  PG&E and the American Red Cross are ongoing partners in emergency preparedness and have joined forces on the Red Cross Ready Neighborhoods campaign for which the utility has contributed $2.5 million. The partnership recently hit a significant milestone in training, educating or engaging more than 700,000 residents through the program.

Amber Stewart was credited with saving her family from a house fire.

Team Firestopper seminars are planned in the following communities over the next six months:

  • Fresno County – Fresno (Southwest) and Sanger
  • Kern County – Bakersfield (Oildale neighborhood), Delano and Taft
  • Tulare County – Porterville

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