Team Firestopper – Preventing Fire Before They Start in Central California

Fire remains one of the leading causes of unintentional deaths in California and the Nation and accounts for 90 percent of annual disaster responses by the American Red Cross.

For those living in Central California, they are no exception. Due to the prevailing economic conditions in the Central Valley most homeowners and renters often do not have the financial capability to invest in lifesaving fire safety equipment nor possess the funds needed to recover from a fire. An additional struggle that many Central Valley residents face is a severe language barrier, with over 40% of the region’s 2.8 million population claiming English as a second language.

Understanding those factors, the American Red Cross Central Valley Region developed a list of services that would help community residents; particularly for Latino-based and rural communities to reduce the likelihood of home fires, while increasing their overall safety and preparedness levels.

These services include:

  • Identifying potential safety hazards within the home
  • Discussing proper installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Providing a fire extinguisher, disaster supply kit and surge protector
  • Creating a family disaster plan
  • Developing culturally-sensitive program deliverables

Team Firestopper, was launched in 2011 as part of the region’s Prepare Central Valley campaign, and is the primary fire mitigation component of year-round fire prevention and response activities provided by the American Red Cross Central Valley Region. Volunteer teams are trained to educate homeowners in targeted areas on specific actions they can take to mitigate risk.

To-date, the Team Firestopper program has placed over 600 smoke alarms in homes, 50% of which were in homes where Spanish is the primary spoken language. The program has also worked within 10 at-risk communities and provided 500 households with fire safety kits, which includes a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, surge protectors and fire extinguisher.

For more information on the American Red Cross Central Valley Region and Team Firestopper, please contact Alex Villa, Regional Manager, Community Preparedness & Resilience Services at

Lessons Learned :

  • There is a need for fire prevention education in our Latino communities; with over 92% of Latino individuals claiming to have never discussed a fire escape plan within the home.
  • In order to provide education to members of the Latino population, the American Red Cross must first build trust within the local community and/or have information delivered by respected and trusted community members.
  • All program deliverables must be provided in the commonly spoken language and dialect. 

Supporting Materials :

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