CHICAGO (CBS) — Volunteers with the Red Cross in the Chicago area are stretched a little thin assisting displaced people at fires.

The volunteers, said disaster team leader Ron Leffler, have been at more than a dozen fires in the area over the past few days. Most, he said, have been caused by improper use of space heaters.

He said they are either placed too close to bedding and other flammable material or they are being used with extension cords that aren’t rated for space heaters.

Leffler became a disaster team leader after 25 years as a firefighter.

“You get the hugs when you are wrapping them up in their blankets because they have nothing left. You went to bed knowing you are in a safe, secure zone inside of your home, you wake up to a fire, you have nothing than what is on your back,” he said.

He said they get a lot of gratitude at the fire scenes and with the assistance they provide after the fires are put out, helping people get back on their feet.

People are lost and devastated, he said. And the Red Cross stays with them for as long as it takes.

The disaster relief agency has a program called “Moving Forward” for after the initial shock of the fire, helping with everything from housing to clothing to medicine that may have been lost in a fire.

“We’re on the comfort side,” he said.

When asked when he sleeps – Leffler said, “we don’t. When everyone else is asleep, we’re responding to fires.”

He was at two in Chicago overnight and was still working the volunteer job Thursday afternoon.

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