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Milestone fire call for Hampshire volunteers

11 January 2010

Fire victims inside the fire and emergency support service vehicleBRCRed Cross volunteers in Hampshire leapt into action today as Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service called them out for the thousandth time.

The fire and emergency support service (FESS) volunteers made their way to Exton Gardens in Portchester to help the Walker family, whose home had been devastated by fire just moments earlier. Mum of two Sharon Walker (47) was at work at Argos in Fareham at the time. She explained: “I got a hysterical phone call from my daughter who told me the house was on fire, so I jumped in a taxi straight away to get back there."

"Brilliant volunteers"

She continued: “As I arrived I could see smoke billowing out the front door – I’m still in a state of shock. It’s awful inside, the kitchen’s completely gutted and the rest of the house is totally smoke damaged. The children were outside with our neighbours who had given them some coats to keep warm. Then the Red Cross volunteers arrived – they gave us a lot of reassurance – they were absolutely brilliant.”

Fire victims and fire and emergency support service volunteersBRCSharon and her family were invited into the warmth of the specially adapted Red Cross vehicle, which is kitted out with immediate necessities such as clothing, toiletries, a phone, documents and space for a team of fully-trained Red Cross volunteers offering practical help and emotional support.

Sharon continued: “The Red Cross volunteers ran through what needed to be done and jollied me along. I’m normally one of these people who will cry every five minutes, but they kept me going and focused on how to move on from this.”

Being there for vulnerable people

Ruth Crouch, fire and emergency support service co-ordinator for Hampshire, said: “Although the thousandth call represents many crisie for families and individuals, it also shows how often the Red Cross FESS volunteers have been there for vulnerable people in need of emotional and practical support.

"Without our volunteers we would never be able to give these people the help they needed. We depend on people who generously give up their time to help others. Last year we helped people whose homes have been devastated by flooding, a falling tree, a vehicle driven through a living room wall, and of course house fires, vehicle fires, barn fires, mobile home fires, and pub fires throughout Hampshire."

Strong partnership

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service deputy chief fire officer Alan House added: “The Red Cross FESS has been an important part of Hampshire Fire and Rescue for a number of years now. During that time, Red Cross personnel have come to the aid of thousands of people who have suffered the effects of fires, floods and other similar incidents.

“It is tremendous to know that there are people willing to volunteer and assist at incidents any time, day or night, and offer people support in their time of need. Our partnership has gone from strength to strength and long may it continue.”

In 2009 alone, the volunteers responded to nearly 150 call outs. The Walkers' fire was the thousandth call the service has received since it began in 1996.

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