ROANOKE,Va. -

When fire and natural disasters strike, the American Red Cross is one of the first agencies to help. It’s now asking for donations.

When a fire ripped through an apartment complex in Roanoke earlier this month leaving some trapped in their homes, The American Red Cross was there. They have also responded to several other calls since the beginning of their calendar which starts in July.

“The numbers that we're seeing is up about 12 percent over last year. That equates to 200 more people this year than the ones last year,” said Regional CEO Lee Clark.

Clark says over the last seven to eight months the Red Cross has come to the rescue of about 1,700 people.

“What we're seeing is more serious cases and we're also seeing bigger number of people in families when we respond,” said Lee. “Last year for example we're running typically about three people per family, when we responded. This year it's over five people per family.”

This means an increase of 27% in terms of dollars that are being spent went it comes to families. Temporary housing isn't the only service the Red Cross provides during a crisis. They also help with clothing, toiletries and medication.

“Right now we're hurting because donations are down 20%. The demand is up 27% and so that puts us in a real catch 22,” said Lee.

A recent 50,000 donation from the Foundation for Roanoke Valley is helping fill the gap, but more help is needed.

“When you're looking for the good people that are helping, the Red Cross is always among those good people that are helping and we can't continue to do that without your help,” said Lee.

Another way Clark says people can help is by volunteering.