accessibility & help

Fire volunteers on hand for Woking flat fire

5 July 2010

FESS volunteers Malcolm Gladwell and John DrudgeVolunteers were quick to respond when the roof of a block of flats in Woking caught fire, leaving the terrified residents – including a mother and young baby – out on the street.

On 23 June, Malcolm Jefferies and John Drudge from the fire and emergency support service (FESS) arrived to find a chaotic scene. Malcolm recalled: “I arrived to find several people on the pavement, a mother and baby in an ambulance and firefighters still battling the blaze.”

The occupants of seven separate flats had been caught up in the blaze and, initially, it was a challenge to even establish who was involved and where they were. But the volunteers soon sought out those needing the most help and took them to their FESS vehicle, where they could talk through their situation over a cup of tea.

Guiding influence

One of the occupants, Rupert*, said: “The Red Cross comforted us, and really helped us get our thoughts back and decide what to do next. I would have had a real challenge taking my first steps if they hadn’t been there to guide me.”

The tireless FESS volunteers also secured temporary accommodation for those who needed to be re-homed, made sure the broken front doors were boarded up and even arranged for a tarpaulin to be put over the gaping hole in the roof.

Comfort and support

Their final task came when a last resident arrived home later to find her home badly damaged. John said: “She became very upset on finding some ceilings down and tarpaulin on the floor, but we were on hand to comfort her and she quickly recovered after we had a drink and a chat in the FESS vehicle. And we made sure she was in touch with her father, who was able to help her, before we said our farewells.”

Following the incident, Rupert said: “I didn’t know the Red Cross offered this service but I wasn’t surprised they were there to help in an emergency – that’s what the Red Cross does.”

*Name changed

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