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Fires taxing Red Cross as winter approaches.

Byline: Ashley Bishop

WORCESTER - Halloween marked the beginning of a rash of fires in Worcester County, leaving officials with the American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts worried about the upcoming winter months, usually a busier time for the agency's response units.

Five home fires have displaced 47 people since Oct. 31. Thirteen families were left without homes.

A blaze in Grafton on Halloween night, said to be caused by faulty wiring, destroyed the home of a family of five, while a three-alarm fire in Southbridge displaced three families the same night.

Four additional fires occurred within a week, including three in Worcester: a two-alarm fire at 110 Winfield St. that displaced 12 people Nov. 3; a three-decker blaze that caused extensive damage and displaced three families at 115 Illinois St. Nov. 4; and a small fire in a trash compactor at a Salvation Army warehouse off Cambridge Street Nov. 4.

"There really hasn't been one factor that can be attributed to the high number (of fires) in such a short time span," said Nicole Valentine, director of emergency services for the American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts. "It's very concerning, and we hope that people will take necessary precautions as the holiday season begins."

The recent fires have come on the heels of 35 local fires that have displaced 199 residents since July 1.

The Red Cross suggests people install and test smoke alarms, keep flammable items away from space heaters, stoves and fireplaces, and know and practice fire escape plans to help reduce the threat of winter fires.

"Candles, Christmas trees, space heaters all become threats during this time of year," Ms. Valentine said. "This year's figures are already truly alarming. We hope people take the necessary steps to protect themselves this season."
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 8, 2007
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