FAR-SIGHTED campaigners have unveiled a major new weapon in the battle against devastating house fires.
An army of everyday people are being recruited in a scheme where they will learn to spot fire risks in their neighbours' homes.
The ambitious plan now needs interested people to come on board and help save lives.
The Peterlee scheme comes at a time when County Durham has already suffered seven fatal blazes this year.
East Durham Trust is leading the innovative scheme which will see local volunteers being trained by ex-firefighters in how to carry out safety visits in the homes of vulnerable people.
Once competent, these volunteers will carry out visits where they will identify potential fire risks and arrange for appropriate action such as the fitting of free smoke alarms.
Trust chiefs say County Durham's serious fires could have been avoided by better monitoring and advice.
The scheme has been jointly funded by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue and North Peterlee Neighbourhood Pathfinder.
East Durham Trust chief executive Malcolm Fallow said: "This is a really far-sighted initiative which recognises the value of local people addressing the issues in their own communities.
"It is also an excellent opportunity for volunteers to develop new skills and experience.
"If this project prevents one fire then it will have been worth it and I am certain that it will do far more than that."
Volunteers on the project will be entitled to have all travel costs reimbursed and will receive a uniform and ongoing training and advice.
Any local people wanting to get involved in the project should contact Abby Thompson at East Durham Trust on (0191) 5693511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org