By Anjie Coplin, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas
Since 2011, Linda Flores has helped teach people fire safety through the Red Cross’s pillowcase trainings and the Sound the Alarm campaign, where she and other volunteers went into neighborhoods to share fire safety tips and install smoke alarms. But Linda never imagined that she would need to use those skills to save herself and her family.
In February 2021, Texas experienced a snow storm that blanketed the state and brought with it record low temperatures. In addition to treacherous weather conditions, tens of thousands of people also faced power outages due to failures with the State’s power grid. Linda and her family were among those who lost power for days and and struggled to stay warm .
On the night of February 16, with no power other than a small generator to keep her refrigerator running, the lack of heat became unbearable. The first solution she tried was to hang blankets across windows to keep the cold air from coming in. When that didn’t work, the family decided to build a fire in the fireplace which they had never used before. The family checked to make sure the fireplace flume was open and proceeded to build a fire so that they could stay warm.
A few hours later, the family heard a crackling noise coming from above them. Out of curiosity, Linda‘s husband and daughter went outside to see if the snow was damaging their roof. But what they saw were some of their neighbors running towards them and pointing up. When Linda‘s husband looked up, he saw flames coming from the roof. With little time to spare, Linda grabbed the family’s important documents and her husband grabbed the family dog.
With poor road conditions, it took the fire department more than 10 minutes to arrive. Initially only one fire truck showed up, but soon after, six more arrived due to concern that the fire would spread to other homes. Because of Linda’s work on the Sound the Alarm campaign, several of the firefighters on scene recognized her.
It took almost three hours to extinguish the fire and Linda and her family took refuge with family friends. Sadly, the house was deemed a complete loss.
In addition to calling her insurance company, Linda reached out to the Red Cross, which provided money for the family’s immediate needs. Many people in the Dallas office called her to offer support for weeks following the fire. With tears in her eyes, Linda said, “ I want to thank the Red Cross for their continued support. It means so much to me and my family.”
Linda knows that the most important things – – her family – – survived the fire that cold, snowy night last February. “Because I have trained people about fire safety for so many years, I knew exactly what to do and what to take with me as we had to quickly leave the house.”
After going through such a traumatic experience, Linda’s advice to anyone reading this is to keep all of important documents in a safe place that is fire proof. She also suggests that people familiarize themselves with fire safety information. She adds, “ be prepared, but don’t panic. The main thing priority is to get out alive.“
While she admits that she cried when she saw that all of her belongings had been destroyed by the fire, she knows that she is lucky that her family escaped without injury. They are now looking forward to rebuilding their home and replacing the memory of the fire with new, happy memories.
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