Joy Dotson was one of the first Fire and Rescue employees to arrive at 47 Carolina Court, after a townhouse caught fire Saturday, Feb. 10. Dotson arrived with the firefighters, but she wasn’t there to put out the flames. She was there to pick up the pieces and provide support to residents.
Dotson, who has a background in education, joined the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management after she lost everything in a fire at her brother’s home in Pennsylvania.
"I just remember the feeling of ‘What do I do now?’" she said. "The fire trucks came and went. We were left sitting on the curb with no one there to guide us."
Dotson’s experience inspired her to create a program that provides immediate support victims of home fires. She introduced her idea of a program to the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management and, in 2001, the department adopted it as one of its own.
The After the Fire program provides immediate assistance to residents who have been affected by a fire, and works in conjunction with the Loudoun Red Cross.
TRACI WINFREE, emergency preparedness and response for the Red Cross, said the After the Fire Program is a big benefit to her organization.
"We don’t have to go out every single time there’s a fire," she said. "They will do some of the leg work. They ask the family if they need assistance."
Dotson and her team stepped in last week to help rebuild the lives of the family who lives on Carolina Court. Dotson made a list of the woman, her children and her elderly father’s immediate needs, including shelter for the night, clothing and medicine.
"We try to look at all the angles," Dotson said. "Everybody’s needs are different."
Dotson made a phone call to Winfree to give her a copy of her report.
"That’s when the Red Cross steps in," Winfree said.
Winfree said she typically meets with a family to discuss long-term needs. The Red Cross provides families a place to stay if they don’t have anywhere to go. They also put residents in touch with other local agencies.
"We provide answers to the many, many questions," Winfree said.
THE FIRE MARSHALS OFFICE said the Carolina Court fire, which resulted in $500,000 damage, was accidental. Two adjacent townhouses received minor smoke damage from the fire.