21 August 2009
When a couple tragically lost their home, beloved dogs and most of their possessions during a family holiday, volunteers were quickly on hand to offer support.
The couple – who live in a camper van at a Mytchett caravan site – had briefly popped out with family members who were visiting for a holiday when tragedy struck on 12 August. The caravan burst into flames, leaving three family dogs trapped inside.
Besides destroying the camper van, the fierce blaze badly damaged the visiting family’s tent, which was pitched nearby. Another caravan and two cars also suffered fire damage.
A young family from a nearby tent rushed to the burning vehicle in an attempt to save the dogs, but sadly the ferocity of the blaze drove them back.
Helping through shock
Volunteers Tom Stevens and Malcolm Jefferies were called out by Surrey fire and rescue service to help the stricken family. Malcolm, who volunteers with the Red Cross’ fire and emergency support service (FESS), recalled: “When we arrived, the wife had returned and was in a really distraught state because of her dogs. I sat with her until her husband and visiting family arrived.
“It was then a matter of gently helping them through the immediate shock, while liaising with lots of people and organisations to get further help. The main issue was about how to meet the couple’s wishes for their dogs – they wanted them treated with the utmost respect.”
Malcolm added: “Not only did we need to help the couple, but also the visiting family whose tent had been damaged. We also gave fire safety advice to the holidaymaker whose adjoining caravan had been damaged – and made a point of talking to the family who’d tried to rescue the dogs, to make sure they were okay.”
Looking back on what turned out to be a traumatic afternoon, Malcolm said: “Tom and I were pleased to have been able to help the family get through the immediate hours and beyond."
He added: “Tom, especially, deserves thanks. The call came just two minutes after he’d finished his morning shift, but he didn’t hesitate in attending – even though he was due to start another 12-hour FESS night duty that same evening.”
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