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Flames flickering for After the Fire relief organization

Fire relief group puts out call for members as ranks dwindle

— When an apartment near her office in Ballston Spa caught fire in 2004, Joanne Joseph decided to see if any of the displaced families wanted some furniture she was getting ready to replace.

At the scene, she met the president of After the Fire, who suggested Joseph check out a meeting of the group, which works with Saratoga County families affected by fire. Joseph has attended meetings ever since.

“It’s very comforting for people to know that someone is checking in on them,” she said. “Neighbors helping neighbors is critical.”

That could easily be the slogan for After the Fire, a completely volunteer organization that reaches out to any family that has suffered loss from fire and is looking for assistance. The group has connections with area hotels and motels that will put displaced families up for free for a night, after which the Red Cross can help them find shelter. After the Fire volunteers also distribute “personal care packets” containing items like toothbrushes, miniature bars of soap, toothpaste and deodorant. They pass along information on restoration companies and give each person affected a Walmart gift card.

After the Fire was founded in 1991 by ladies auxiliary members from Halfmoon and Clifton Park fire departments who felt fire victims needed help beyond the extinguishing of flames. While some victims are level-headed, “some are just so confused, and rightfully so,” Joseph said.

Membership in After the Fire has dwindled over the years to about 12 members now. They respond to fire calls in pairs after getting a page from the fire control dispatcher. Vice President Kathy Hedgeman said it’s an emotional experience.

“A lot of times I’m crying right along with the family,” she said.

But she and other volunteers relish the chance to “help them start back up that ladder,” Hedgeman said.

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