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Man loses house, possessions and beloved pet in Alton fire

SoVaNow.com / July 03, 2014
When Carroll Roberts woke up on Wednesday morning, he was faced with the reality that his home that he has lived in since 1978, his personal belongings, and his beloved dog were destroyed in a fire.

The Halifax County native was outdoors in the yard at 3097 Cluster Springs Rd. in Alton on Tuesday evening when the fire began inside the house. When he rushed inside to attempt to contain the fire, his pet had run past him.

Amid the smoke and confusion, and despite the efforts from Cluster Springs Fire Department to extinguish the flames on a hot and humid night, the canine hid under the bed and succumbed to smoke.

As most pet owners know, animals are precious family members. “He had a beautiful companion that he was just heartbroken about,” said Ginger Weaver, specialist with the American Red Cross Eastern Virginia chapter.

She explained that the Red Cross provides families with immediate emergency needs following such an incident. “Those needs are immediately assessed on an individual basis, and may include things as shelter, food, clothing, comfort kits, counseling, and confidential, personalized casework that includes organized recovery assistance during the aftermath of these tragedies,” she said.

Weaver received the call at 6:43 p.m. Tuesday evening and met with Roberts to assess what he may need in assistance from the local chapter. For some individuals and families, it may mean they need a few changes of clothing because everything they have and even sometimes are wearing smell of smoke or may be torn or dirty from other types of disasters. They also may need temporary shelter, which may be assistance in staying with relatives or at a motel. They also need what the community provides — comfort kits.

“We rely on the community to create these kits,” Weaver said. The individual kits have full-size shampoo and conditioners, toothpaste, toothbrush, combs and other necessities to last a week for those in emergency need. The full-size hygiene products, which can be a low-cost purchase at discount stores, sends the message of support from the community. ARC chapters across the country have been receiving such kits from schools and churches as part of a community project.

“Our community comes together with the most love and support,” Weaver said. She added caution too because, unlike the ARC trained specialists, residents with the utmost of good intentions may not be equipped to handle crisis. “The Red Cross is all about preparation, response, and recovery,” she said. “Our response to the disaster is to assess what immediate emergency needs do they need right at that moment. It might be counseling and consoling, and we’re trained to do that,” she said.

“Even if people want to help with donations, go through agencies that are helping already. It keeps it in line for the person and doesn’t add any additional stress if it isn’t something they don’t need,” she said.

For Roberts, he is safe. He is grieving, but he is comforted knowing his precious pet did not suffer. He has homeowners insurance that can be a big help in rebuilding his home. He has a place to stay the night, clothes to wear, and a toothbrush from the ARC comfort kit he received. And he has hope.

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