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This year we celebrate three decades of collaboration between Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and the British Red Cross. This special partnership was formed with a shared commitment to saving lives and serving the community.

Red Cross at 30

Back in 1994, the year of the first National Lottery draw and the opening of the Channel Tunnel, local co-ordinator, Dee Phillips BEM and a dedicated group of volunteers embarked on the first Red Cross Emergency Support service for the Humber region. Humberside was one of three areas in England selected to pilot a scheme to support people following a house fire or flood. Armed with a Renault Espace, a handful of blankets and essential supplies, their first response was to help the occupiers of a house fire in Cleethorpes. As volunteer numbers grew, so did the resources. The initial vehicle evolved into a crucial support for those dealing with the aftermath of a house fire.

In 2003, following six years of fundraising by the British Red Cross and many local firefighters, a campervan was purchased which provided warmth and. It quickly became a feature at many house fires, offering not only a place to brew a comforting cup of tea but also serving as a refuge from what was happening outside.

In 2014, to mark the 20th anniversary of the partnership, a second vehicle was purchased by HFR Solutions which covers North and North East Lincolnshire and is based at the Service’s Cromwell Road Fire Station in Grimsby. The long wheel-based van was individually designed to maximise storage space, which now even includes pet food and dog leads. The purpose built vehicle is now held up by the British Red Cross nationally as the favoured size and layout of Emergency Support service vehicles and another two have been bought for other areas of the country.

Local co-ordinator Dee Phillips BEM, said, “The success of this remarkable and rewarding service owes everything to the dedication, commitment and willingness of our fabulous volunteers, who come from all walks of life. I feel such pride and privilege when working alongside them; it also speaks volumes to acknowledge that four of the existing volunteers are from the original founding group.

“After a fire, the wellbeing of those affected is our top priority. We respect their wishes and provide support. Whether it's calling relatives, advising on how to start an insurance claim, or offering a sympathetic ear. We also have practical things like clothing and toiletries."

Chief Fire Officer, Phil Shillito thanked all the volunteers for their years of dedicated service, “It’s vital to recognise the ongoing life saving work of British Red Cross volunteers who work closely with our Prevention staff and firefighters, some of whom also volunteer in their personal time.

“They are the unsung heroes and today is about recognising them, the partnership and the hundreds of lives it has touched.

“They (volunteers') are crucial in offering humanitarian help to those affected by a house fire or flooding. Helping people deal with emotions associated with the loss of their home and belongings.”

Services the volunteers provide, include:

· Immediate temporary shelter

· Emotional support

· Practical assistance

· Clothing, toiletries and refreshments

· Shower / washing and toilet facilities

· Use of telephone camera to assist with insurance claims, signposting to other agencies

· Help in securing temporary accommodation

· Advice on care / replacement of damaged property

· Multilingual phrasebooks