News release text
The crucial work of the Red Cross in providing residents with care and support after a potentially devastating fire has prompted a Kent Fire and Rescue Service manager to volunteer for the charity.
Group support co-ordinator Sara Wiles has worked for KFRS for 10 years but has now joined other Red Cross volunteers to go on the run for the first time in Maidstone, offering assistance to victims of emergencies such as fire, flood and other disasters.
“I’ve known about the Red Cross for a while as they’re often called to assist our crews once an incident is scaling down and it’s become apparent that the homeowner needs help,” she explains. “Most of us are fortunate never to have suffered such an incident but it can be deeply traumatic and the Red Cross is a fantastic partner to KFRS in helping residents recover. I’ve just completed my training and looking forward to going on the run and seeing the effects of fire from a completely different viewpoint.”
At the scene, volunteers provide practical help in the form of food, clothing and even nappies and pet food. They also offer assistance in dealing with statutory bodies; for example, a book of phone numbers of insurance companies/housing social services etc. In addition, volunteers listen and give emotional support.
The Red Cross has two vehicles in Kent – at Thames-side Fire station in Gravesend and in Maidstone. They operate from 7pm to 7am, contacting their on call volunteers after being notified by KFRS’s control room about an incident.
Richard Tyler is the Red Cross Lead Event First Aid and Emergency Response manager. He said: “Red Cross volunteers have provided this unique service for many years and have helped many vulnerable people at one of the most difficult times in their lives. We need to increase the team to increase the service we can provide.”
A recent example of the Red Cross in action was on 24 March in Woodnesborough where a chimney fire spread to the roof of a two storey building and led to six people being forced to leave their home. At the height of the blaze in Chalkpit Lane, six pumps and specialist support vehicles were called and fire crews spent several hours at the scene. The house had been split into two properties and the Red Cross assisted the residents in finding accommodation.
Wingham Watch Manager, Alan Colyer said: “The red cross unit has always been a welcome addition to any of the long jobs I have attended, giving a place for both residents and the crews to get some well needed refreshments and a sit down away from the incident plus support from the very friendly staff.”
KFRS’s Director of Service Delivery, Steve Griffiths, said: “We are pleased to be working with the Red Cross charity as they provide a valuable support to our firefighting operations and offer an extremely caring service when people need it most, after suffering often devastating fires. They have helped hundreds of families after an incident and it is something we will continue to support and work with in the future.”