When the Fittis family’s home went up in flames and claimed
the life of their beloved pet dog, our volunteers were on hand to help them get
through a traumatic evening.
Thankfully, the family weren’t at their home – in Mallusk,
County Antrim – when the fire took hold.
Father-of-two Robert was doing an evening shift at work and
his wife Julie had taken their two kids, aged 13 and 11, to see their
Alerted to the blaze, Robert rushed home to find his street
full of fire vehicles, emergency services staff and concerned neighbours. He
had to watch on as fire-fighters broke off sections of his burning roof and
poured in gallons of water to contain the fire.
Robert was also worried sick about the family's elderly pet
dog, Bramble, who had been left at home for the evening.
Sadly, when fire-fighters finally entered the building
wearing breathing apparatus, they found the pet dead upstairs in a bedroom. It
was a devastating blow for the whole family, especially the children.
Robert recalled: “The whole night was overwhelming – a real
life-changing event – but I clearly remember the relief I felt when the Red
Cross’ fire and emergency support volunteers arrived at the scene.”
On a freezing night, the volunteers immediately sprang into
action. They handed out foil blankets to several friends and neighbours, and
arranged for an out-of-hours doctor to supply an asthma nebuliser for a family
Most importantly though, their FES
support vehicle provided a quiet space for the family to withdraw and collect
Once they were warm and comfortable, the volunteers talked
Robert and Julie through the practicalities of dealing with a serious house
fire, and helped them develop a plan to cope.
The Red Cross also provided disposable cameras so the couple
could record the damage for their insurance claim.
Robert said, "I'm very lucky to have a great family and
brilliant neighbours, and plenty of people offered to help on the night.
“But what we really needed was some space and calm, with professional
support and advice on hand. The Red Cross volunteers made it all a bit easier