Firefighters and shelters prep for cold weather - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Firefighters and shelters prep for cold weather

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The coming cold snap has local agencies and shelters prepping to help people in need. When the temperatures drop, fire threat goes up.

This cold weather is causing concern - simply because it will last so long. Firefighters are preparing for increased vacant house fires, and shelters caring for the homeless say the donations they've collected all winter - could be gone by next week.

Birmingham firefighters are bracing for a 6 day stretch of freezing temperatures. For them, the cold weather means a high risk.

"We still have a lot of fires during this time of year," Captain Tyrone Fornest, Birmingham Fire said. "Keep people mindful of space heaters, space heater safety. That's one of our leading causes."

Most of them are vacant house fires.

"In the latter part of 2013, about one third of structure fires we've gone to have been to vacant homes," Fornest said.

Captain Fornest told us, the threat of vacant house fires extends to the homes nearby.

"Especially if it's next to you and the house were to catch on fire, your house will be in danger as well," he said.

Across the street, the Firehouse Shelter is taking in people without a home.  Because the temperatures are dropping dangerously low, the need rises.

"We send our staff on the streets to find people," Anne Darden Wright, Executive Director, Firehouse Shelter said.

Typically, anyone staying in the shelter must go through a check in process, but because of the extended cold weather, shelter staff will open their doors to anyone needing a place to stay.

"On a normal night we'll have about 50 people staying with us in the emergency shelter," Wright said. "When it gets cold, we go up to 70-75 people. If our emergency shelter or bunk beds are full, we'll pull out mats and put them down in our main room."

With a week of freezing temperatures, supplies will soon be gone.

"It completely decimates it," Wright said. "We're full now, but ask me tomorrow, there will be a different story. The same thing with the shelter, if people come and need a jacket, we don't turn them away."


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