Emergency responders seeing more fires in Iowa than in past years

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The American Red Cross in Iowa says it is seeing an increase in the number of fires they are responding to this Summer. Local Fire Departments are seeing the same trend.

The Cedar Rapids Fire Department responded to 345 fires in 2015. They are on pace to respond to a total of 417 this year. Officials say that is unusual because they typically see a downward trend in the Summer.

"What we have seen is pretty much an ongoing steady flow of fires, particularly house fires," said Peter Teahen with the American Red Cross.

Their organization has responded to a total of 35 fires and weather-related calls in June. That number jumped to 48 in July, and August's responses so far are at 33.

"We think of summers as not being a high fire season," said Teahen.

As for the increase, there's no one clear reason as to why.

"We never know what is causing the spikes. We work closely with the fire departments and sometimes it's more people reporting them," Teahen added.

Hiawatha Fire Chief Michael Nesslage says it can be because of several factors.

"Some of it is related to weather. If you have rough weather storms, sometimes, that can lead to lightning fires. Sometimes people being out doing things can lead to fires," said Nesslage.

Nesslage says that it can also make it tough to catch fires when they are small. He says he and other emergency assistance organizations always stress education as prevention.

Number one always has a working smoke detector.

"So many times we go to a house, and we go to fires, little fires, and their smoke detectors weren't working," said Nesslage.

He also says don't leave anything you are cooking or open flames unattended.

"Grease fires, kitchen fires are really bad. Don't leave candles unattended. This time of the year, pay attention when you have a campfire outside, make sure you have a clean area and a way to extinguish the fire," he said.

For more tips, people can visit the Red Cross website.