Alex Maguire / British Red Cross
Dave Cruse (53) – who has clocked up more than 2,000 hours worth of volunteering – talks about how getting involved with the fire and emergency support service (FESS) changed his life.
Dave, from Southampton, remembers: “I first signed up with the fire and emergency support team ten years ago after hearing a Red Cross member give a speech about the service. I just wanted to sign up straight away and I haven’t looked back since.
“I find it easy to deal with the panic of a fire or other emergency situation because the training we get is very good. I really enjoy doing what we do. It takes over your life but I just love helping people – and you get a good deal out of the social side of being part of the FESS team as well.”
Not surprisingly, Dave is always keen to spread the word about the benefits of getting involved in charitable work. He said: “If someone were to ask me about becoming a volunteer, I’d advise them to come out with us and see for themselves what good our volunteers can do for those who, sometimes, have literally lost everything. There’s nothing worse than having your life and possessions taken away from you in a fire.
“I recently went out to a terrible fire at a thatched cottage in Micheldever and the woman who lived there was in a right mess. She was really distraught but we helped her out, and now she has my phone number so I can continue to give her support if she needs it. We don’t stop after leaving the scene.”
He added: “One of the most memorable moments I have had as a FESS volunteer was out in the New Forest when a ten-year-old boy who had just been in a serious house fire looked up to me and said ‘Can I give you a hug?’ I asked his father if that was okay – and he said, ‘Of course’ – so the boy gave me a big hug to say thank you. It’s moments like those you don’t forget.”
Over the years, Dave’s commitment to helping others has not gone altogether unnoticed. “In 2001, I was presented with the Red Cross humanity award for completing 2,000 hours of volunteering. That same year, I also got a Local Hero Award from ITV Meridian. Obviously, I don’t do all this volunteering to get an award, but it was still overwhelming at the same time.
“Really, it’s the satisfaction you get from helping others that has kept me volunteering for ten years. When people say thank you and give you a hug – well, that’s all the payment I need.”
More about the fire and emergency support service
Become an emergency response volunteer
Learn about first aid