ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Since the beginning of the year, the American Red Cross for the Rochester region has helped more than 170 people, including 31 since just last Thursday.

Many of those people were affected by fire — and the busy season for the agency is not over yet.

Red Cross Executive Director James Love said just like the fire departments, his Red Cross teams of volunteers are dispatched to area fires through 911. While firefighters help put out the flames the Red Cross helps the families.

At the Portland Avenue fire last week, the Red Cross helped 23 people. The building was a total loss and had to be torn down. Most of the families lost everything in that fire. The agency gave them a kind of credit card that can be used to buy immediate emergency needs; shelter, food and clothing.   

"Once we get through that time frame we will work with our partners in the community to start the recovery for those families, long term recovery," Love said. "Not only are we providing physical items like food, shelter, clothing, we're also providing mental health for families who have suffered a disaster. This is our highest peak of responding to fires. We're seeing things such as improper heating sources being used, chimneys that may not be in great working order or sometimes carelessness. We respond to a fire almost once a day in this community, which is a lot." 

Love says most of this work relies on the effort of volunteers; more than 1,000 of them in Rochester area helping with everything from blood donation, to responding locally to fires, to traveling nationally and internationally to major disasters.

An easy way to avoid a potentially devastating fire? Smoke dectectors. The Red Cross offers people a way to get them, free.