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Va. Red Cross Gets New Emergency Vehicle

PETERSBURG, Va. -- The Southside Area Chapter of the American Red Cross in Petersburg, Va., has some new wheels. They've recently received a new emergency response vehicle to serve the Petersburg community and beyond in times of disaster.

"Basically, this truck is on call 24 hours a day," explained Ted Jonas, emergency services coordinator for the chapter. The ERV, which is designed and built like an ambulance without medical equipment, can serve up to 1,500 meals a day. Jonas said three to four workers could pick up prepared food and drinks, take it to the scene of a crisis and serve as a self-sufficient feeding station.

There are 310 such ERVs in service with Red Cross chapters nationwide, with about 25 new built each year. Wheeled Coach Industries Inc. of Florida finished the truck in July, but it stayed in Florida for the balance of the hurricane season, Jonas said. It replaces the third-oldest truck in the country.

Still, the bulk of the disasters that the Red Cross responds to are home fires, not hurricanes or other natural disasters.

Lena Sharpe was pushed out of her Dupuy Road home by a fire Dec. 20. She said the cathedral-style roof she installed likely stopped the fire from spreading further.

Jonas asked for the wire frame that remains of her artificial Christmas tree as a demonstration of what a fire can do.

"We just lost a lot of memories," Sharpe said. As the oldest daughter in the family, the Massachusetts native had many heirlooms and photos. In fact, she had taken out many family photos to copy as Christmas presents.

"It's been an experience. I've never been through anything like this," Sharpe said, thanking the Red Cross for their help.

Shalonda Venable, public educator with the Petersburg Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, said many holiday fires are preventable.

"Especially this time of year we need to be careful about how we decorate our homes," she said. Keeping real trees moist, checking the wiring of holiday lights and keeping space heaters away from combustibles can reduce the chances of a blaze. Jonas added that having a working smoke detector available free from the fire department halves the chance of dying in a home fire.

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