A couple escaped their blazing North Devon home this morning - after being woken by their cat.
Volunteers from the British Red Cross fire and emergency support service (FESS) are currently supporting the couple after their thatched cottage at Horns Cross caught alight fire in the early hours of this morning.
Maxine Wilcox, 68, was awoken by her cat at about 4am and realised their thatched roof was alight. The couple immediately left the property and called Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
The fire service requested the support of the Red Cross to look after the welfare of Mr and Mrs Wilcox while they focused on tackling the blaze.
Volunteers, Keith Finch and Nathan Dale responded to the call in a customised Red Cross vehicle complete with a shower, cooker, kettle and emergency supplies, to provide immediate care, refreshments, advice and a sympathetic ear to the couple.
Mrs Wilcox said: “It has been such a shock this morning. As soon as we realised what was happening we got out of the cottage and called the fire brigade. I’m just glad the cat woke me up.”
Mr and Mrs Wilcox waited outside while firefighters tackled the blaze and salvaged as much of their belongings as they could.
“It was absolutely freezing outside so it was nice to be able to get into the Red Cross vehicle” said Maxine. “It was lovely and warm and the chaps made us a cup of coffee. Both Keith and Nathan are very friendly and chatty and they have been able to put us at ease. I really appreciate and admire them very much. The Red Cross do such a brilliant job – they really are wonderful.”
Keith, who has been a volunteer with the Red Cross FESS service since it launched ten years ago, said: “The fire service are doing a fantastic job here this morning. They have been able to salvage probably 95 percent of the couple’s belonging. Obviously Mr and Mrs Wilcox are very upset and shocked, but they are both safe and well, which is the important thing.”
Mike Burroughs, fire protection support officer from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “The Red Cross volunteers provide an invaluable service to people at a time of great emotional need and stress. When they are looking after the families, it means the firefighters have one less factor to consider.”
The 24 hour, 365 day a year service, which operates from Plymouth, covers the whole of Devon.
Red Cross FESS co-ordinator Malcolm Cook said: “Our volunteers make a real difference to people who may have lost everything at the moment they are needed the most. We are always looking for new volunteers based in the Plymouth area, so if anyone is interested in learning more about the service please contact the Red Cross.”
FESS runs in more than 40 counties across the UK. Using a customised vehicle, volunteers provide those affected by fire or flood with immediate temporary shelter. They are also able to provide first aid, clothes, food, toiletries and help find temporary accommodation and signpost people to other support organisations that can help.
For people who want to find out more about the role and the training provided, please contact Malcolm Cook on 07710 733229 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information visit redcross.org.uk/FESS.