Increased Aid to Fire Departments Puts County Red Cross in the Red

The Ventura County Red Cross has depleted its annual budget for local disaster services, in part blaming increased calls for assistance from local fire departments.

A United Way agency, the Red Cross has received a larger number of such calls this year than in the past, partly as a result of a campaign promoting its services to county fire departments. Spokeswoman Lenore Gabel said the agency has helped 58 people since June--most of them victims of house fires.

Gabel said the Red Cross has spent $21,000 since July, putting it close to $2,000 over the $19,206 budget which was supposed to last until June 30, 1990. She said the larger number of emergency calls and several costly house fires contributed to the shortage of funds.

"It's been a more expensive year, and we've had some expensive fires," Gabel said.

The agency expects to spend an additional $20,000 before June, 1990 and plans to organize several fund-raisers, Gabel said. However, the budget depletion will not affect local emergency aid, since funds are available from the national Red Cross organization if necessary, she said.

The Red Cross provides food, clothing, medical supplies, furnishings, emergency housing, building repair and emergency needs for victims of disasters. Gabel said Red Cross workers try to arrive at disaster sites immediately to begin giving help.

"We're a first-response agency. We respond immediately and go to the scene to give help. Within an hour after being called, we're there trying to help the family," Gabel said.

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