A lifeline for blaze victims

Heather Whyman, Chief Executive Officer for Cleveland Fire Support Network and Fire Support Network volunteer worker Pete Gugan pictured with students(left to right) Danielle Thompson, Jordan Markwell and Chelsea Jack.

Heather Whyman, Chief Executive Officer for Cleveland Fire Support Network and Fire Support Network volunteer worker Pete Gugan pictured with students(left to right) Danielle Thompson, Jordan Markwell and Chelsea Jack.

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VOLUNTEERS are being sought for a valuable support service that works with victims of fire.

Cleveland Fire Support Network (CFSN) was formed in June 2007 and is now a registered charity with a string of volunteers from all walks of life.

They work in the community alongside Cleveland Fire Brigade personnel including operational fire fighters.

The network offers practical help, advice, and support to victims of fire through its After Fire Service which ranges from comforting and counselling victims through to providing new furniture.

Families and individuals are asked what would be on their “wish list”, which can include new furniture, electrical appliances, bedding and even soft toys and books for children.

One fire victim was so distraught after a house blaze that the network even arranged to pay kennel fees for her beloved pet while they arranged her accommodation.

Network chief executive Heather Whyman and volunteer Peter Gugan, 50, who has been with the network for three years, visited Brierton Community Sports Centre, in Hartlepool, to talk to youngsters about the benefits of volunteering.

Heather said: “The network gives people an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of their local community.

“Our After Fire Service, with the assistance of trained and dedicated volunteers, offers emotional and practical assistance to individuals and families affected by domestic house fires.

“The work is both challenging and at times intense, but it is immensely rewarding to see people regain their lives.

“Volunteers get to meet a wide range of people from diverse cultural backgrounds and social groups and gain a wealth of experience, which in turn provides them with more opportunity to seek employment.”

Volunteers are also involved in a number of other initiatives including the Heart Start programme, a free course which is a two-hour training session on basic first aid and heart failure, run in partnership with Cleveland Fire Brigade and the British Heart Foundation.

The network also carries out a wide range of home safety measures including fitting fire alarms and electrical testing services.

It also fits sensory alarms to the hearing impaired community working with audiology departments, local charities and various deaf groups throughout the region and has just completed one pioneering project to fit safety equipment into properties of some with young children under the age of five years.

Heather added: “Partnership working is of the upmost importance to our charity and we look forward to working with new groups.

“Through new partnerships we will continue to move forward and develop new areas of work for the future of the charity and the community at large.”

The network was given £2,000 at the recent Hartlepool Mail Best of Health Awards in recognition of the valuable work it carries out.

It was nominated as a beneficiary of the awards evening in June and a raffle raised more than £800 with the remainder made up by the Mail to recognise the work the network has done with fire victims in the Hartlepool area.

The charitable network relies on donations, fundraising and the help of volunteers.

Anyone interested in volunteering or donating should ring (01642) 288009 or visit www.clevelandfsn.org.