9 May 2011
British Red Cross volunteers have been working alongside colleagues from the WRVS to support up to 400 firefighters tackling the Swinley Forest fires, as well as deployees from the police, local authority and crown estates who have been involved.
Twenty Red Cross fire and emergency support service (FESS) volunteers and staff have been working in rotation at the scene to provide food and drink for the firefighters, who have been battling the forest fires since Monday 2 May.
The Red Cross was called out by the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service at 6.30pm on Friday 6 May and deployed two emergency response vehicles from East Preston in West Sussex to help cope with the scale of the operation: a fully equipped FESS vehicle – which contains a shower, spare clothes, hygiene packs and other supplies as well as food and catering facilities – and a logistics vehicle, which carried the extra water boilers and other equipment needed to cater for the firefighters, many of whom had been brought in from neighbouring counties.
Since then, Red Cross teams have been helping out in the WRVS's catering facilities. Teams have been working shifts between 9am and 9pm and will stay on site for as long as they are needed.
Keeping fire fighters going
British Red Cross FESS volunteer Sandra Smith, from Caversham, has been volunteering at the scene and will return this afternoon to provide further support. She said: “I’ve only been a FESS volunteer for a month, so this was my first big callout. I went down on Saturday at 2pm and headed straight into the catering van, where I got to work making mountains of egg, bacon and sausage sandwiches for the fire fighters – I think I made at least 150 fried eggs!
"The firefighters were exhausted and hungry, but delighted to see us and very thankful that someone was making food for them. Before I got involved with the Red Cross, I never would have thought about something as simple as how firefighters are fed when they're dealing with a blaze that goes on for days. I think we were a big help to them and it felt as though our role was useful and worthwhile.”
Red Cross emergency response manager for Thames Valley Kaye Howard said: “We work closely with the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service to provide support for the victims of fires and other crises. Our volunteers are fully trained and flexible, and sometimes the firefighters themselves need our help too, as shown by this large scale response at Swinley Forest – it’s great to work with the WRVS to keep the fire fighters going!”
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