accessibility & help

Fire volunteers offer transatlantic help to couple

4 August 2010

Volunteers discuss an incident with a fireman© InfoWhen an elderly couple’s home was destroyed in a fire, Red Cross volunteers ensured they were both looked after – even though one of them was away visiting the United States.

Michael*, from Brockham in Surrey, was called away from a funeral in mid-July after a call from a neighbour. He recalled: “I was told my house had burnt down and my heart absolutely sank – it was my worst fear. My immediate reaction was that my whole life had been destroyed in one go.”

Joined by his son and daughter-in-law, Michael hurried back to find seven fire engines dowsing his gutted wreck of a house, which was still catching alight in places. He said: “I wandered around in a daze and got as close as I could to see what was left. I was just speechless and wondering what to do next.”

Transatlantic help

Fortunately, the Red Cross fire and emergency support service team arrived soon afterwards.
Michael said. “The volunteers really worked hard to make themselves useful to us. And when they heard my wife was visiting our other son in America and due to fly home that day, they offered to contact the airline and get some support for her journey home.”

Volunteer Malcolm Jefferies, who has an airline background, spent hours on the phone securing the support of staff at Orlando and Gatwick airports. He said: “Airline staff were briefed to upgrade Michael’s wife on the flight home and make sure she was supported by a steward en route because of her distress.”

‘Extremely helpful’

Michael added: “The airline put my wife next to an empty seat so she could have some privacy and told her to just ask if she needed anything at all. They did everything we could have hoped for. At Orlando airport, they even allowed my son to accompany her right through to the departure gate.”

Looking back at the emergency, Michael’s daughter-in-law, Kelly*, said: “Seeing our father-in-law going through that experience was awful, but the Red Cross volunteers were extremely helpful. We can’t believe how much support they were able to give us all.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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