19 March 2010
Volunteers raced to help after a couple – including a woman who was eight months pregnant– were left out on the street following a house fire.
Volunteers Malcolm Cook and Bob Weston – from the Red Cross’ fire and emergency support service – were called out in the early hours on 14 March to help at the fire scene in Wellington, Somerset.
Malcolm recalled: “When we arrived, heavy smoke was still coming from the upper floor windows of a converted house and there were fire engines and ambulances parked all around.”
Shelter and support
A fire officer introduced the FESS volunteers to the occupants of the middle flat – a woman who was eight-months pregnant and her partner. Malcolm recalled: “They were literally huddled together out on the pavement, so were very relieved to see us. With our FESS vehicle, we could offer them somewhere warm and comfortable to sit – there was a biting wind – and also provide shelter from the local media who were snapping away.
“The poor lady looked physically and mentally exhausted and we were very conscious of letting her stress levels to get too high, for the obvious reasons! Her partner did get quite emotional and frustrated at one point – English isn’t their first language, which made things more difficult – but I just stayed patient and kept explaining the situation to him until he calmed down.
He added: “Things got better once they realised we wouldn’t just abandon them and drive off. We told them we weren’t going anywhere until everything was sorted out, so they knew they could count on us.”
‘Safe and well’
As the day unfolded, Malcolm and Bob spoke to the council housing service and helped secure alternative accommodation for the couple. They finally left five hours later, once the couple were settled with a new temporary address.
“Afterwards, the fire service commander also came over to shake my hand and thank us. He said how helpful it was having us there to look after the victims because it meant his crew could get on with the job, knowing they were safe and well.”
But the team’s work was far from over. Coincidentally, that particular Sunday turned out to be the team’s busiest day in years, with three call-outs. From eight am to ten at night, they were almost continually on duty.
Speaking the following day, Malcolm said: “I slept very well last night, but I’m on call-out duty again tonight – so fingers crossed it’s a quiet one!”
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