Greenville County, SC (Zachary Treu, Greenville Online)- Eleven adults and eight children lost their homes early Thursday morning in an eight-unit apartment fire in Laurens, authorities said.
The fire, which occurred at the Laurens Villa Apartments on Exchange Drive, was one of several that the Red Cross responded to on the day after Christmas, said casework supervisor Kelly Green of Western Carolinas Red Cross.
On Thursday morning, Red Cross staff and volunteers were also providing assistance to five other families in the western Carolinas, including victims of house fires in Spartanburg and Cherokee counties and a duplex fire in Greenville County.
"Our volunteers are stretched a little thin today, and certainly we could use financial contributions, because (when) working with 13 families, we're going to help them with anything," said regional CEO Ann Wright.
Western Carolinas Red Cross covers 27 counties throughout Upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina, Wright said. On average, the branch responds to two disasters a day.
The incidents include fires, floods, mudslides, tornadoes, transportation accidents and other disasters, Wright said.
There were six fires on Thursday, involving 13 families, which continued a busy month for the Red Cross.
"Just since Dec. 1, we've responded to 59 incidents, 71 families," Wright said.
Since the first day of 2013, the Red Cross has responded to 632 disasters in the western Carolinas region, according to the organization. Trained volunteers are the primary respondents. Wright said volunteers outnumber paid Red Cross staffers in the region by about 33 to one.
"Our motto is 'What we do for one, we do for all,' " Green said.
Firefighters were alerted to the incident in Laurens at around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, Fire Chief Bill Hughes of the Laurens City Fire Department said. The situation was brought to the Red Cross's attention at around 2 a.m., Green said.
Between 20 and 30 firefighters from the city of Laurens and Laurens County fire departments got the blaze under control in a little more than an hour, Hughes said.
The fire started in the kitchen of one of the residences, he said. It had spread to three units before firefighters arrived and eventually affected all eight, he said.
Seven units had heavy fire damage and one had smoke and water damage, Hughes said.
"They're not going to be able to move back into their complex," Green said.
Some residents were taken by EMS services to be treated for smoke inhalation, Hughes said.
Red Cross volunteers and staff members worked the case, providing food, clothing, shoes, seasonal garments, money for medications, eyeglass replacements and emotional support.
A support vehicle was dispatched to the site to serve lunch, according to the Red Cross. Local groups like Operation PUSH have also come to help out, Wright said.
The families have been temporarily placed in hotels, Green said.
"Most of them lost Christmas gifts, and that's a big thing the kids are asking for," Green said.
The Red Cross will coordinate with churches and community groups to provide toys for the children between the ages of seven months and 15 years, according to the organization.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire.
Want to help?
To donate to the local branch of the Red Cross visit http://www.redcross.org/sc/nc.