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The American Red Cross is responding to significantly more home fires in Montana this year than last and is encouraging families to sign up for free virtual home fire safety education that could save lives.

The free training, offered over the phone or video call, takes only about 15 minutes and teaches families how to develop a plan for safely escaping their home during a fire, highlights the importance of smoke alarms and covers essential fire prevention tips.

Families, on average, have only two minutes to safely get out of their home during a fire – about the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth - so having an escape plan that can be practiced with every member of the household is critical.

During the training, participants will speak with a Red Crosser who can help them develop fire safety strategies personalized to their families and home. The education will be done at a date and time convenient for those taking part.

“Just 15 minutes of training could make all the difference during chaos and confusion that comes with a fire,” said Ted Koenig, the regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Montana and Idaho. “We unfortunately are seeing more homes fires in Montana in 2021 including several lives lost during these fires, and we strongly encourage Montanans to sign up for this free training and to encourage your friends, family and neighbors to do the same.”

Through the first three months of the year, the Red Cross has seen 86 home fires responses in Montana and provided immediate assistance like lodging, food and mental health support to 226 people. That represents about a 25 percent increase in the number of fires Montana Red Cross volunteer teams responded to during the same period in 2020.

It’s a stark reminder that home fires can happen to anyone at any time.

“It’s good to have a plan,” said Paige Plancich, a Helena woman helped by the Red Cross following an apartment fire. “Before I was like, ‘Oh nothing bad will ever happen to me. I’m not that small fraction of people whose house will catch on fire.’”

Sign up for free home fire safety training by visiting SoundTheAlarm.org/Montana or by calling 800-272-6668.

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