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 at -  Barry, Vale of Glamorgan

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The three courageous women staff who rescued an elderly nursing home resident from a freak fire have received a top award.

Registered nurse Tessie Thomas and care assistants Pat Scanlon and Shelley Jones  brought the pensioner, in his 80s, to safety and helped evacuate other residents at the College Fields home in Barry one night earlier this year.

   Now their bravery has been recognised at the prestigious Wales Care Awards at City Hall in Cardiff.

   The trio shared the gold “Social Care Health and Safety Award” sponsored by Public Health Wales.

    Fire chiefs had praised the “exemplary” manner in which the staff reacted when the blaze occurred, saying they went “over and above their role.” Such a situation could be frightening and stressful but residents were moved quickly out of danger.

College Fields golden heroines with their Gold Award at the City Hall, Cardiff presentations. Left to right Tessie Thomas, Pat Scanlan and Shelly Jones.

   Staff were commended by a senior fire officer for their “bravery and preparedness”.

    Tessie, 34, of Barry, who has worked at the home for nine-and-a-half years, said:”Our training kicked in. It was a team effort. All the residents and staff were unharmed. The fire brigade were here within minutes.”    She added :”It was a fabulous occasion in Cardiff. Everyone was so pleased to receive the award.”

    The Wales Care Awards, organised in association with Care Forum Wales, showcase the best of the care sector across the country. Nominees have often shown extraordinary dedication to looking after the most vulnerable in society.

     Mike Kemp, who has owned and run College Fields for the past 24 years, said the blaze was believed to have started when an electric fan heater fell from a unit.

   Alarms were set off. Staff leapt into action, calling the fire brigade and fetching the special "ResQmats" - special emergency mats on which people can be pulled to safety.

  Tessie and Pat entered the room where the fire had started and colleagues went into the adjacent rooms.  The home’s own foam and powder extinguishers, which  had only been inspected hours earlier, were used by firefighters to put out the flames.

   Mr Kemp said : “What was unbelievable was the amount of smoke in the room where the fire started. It probably did more damage than the flames. “The girls who went into the room to rescue the resident were absolutely brilliant.”

The blaze also highlighted the importance of staff training and ensuring safety systems and electrical equipment are inspected as a matter of routine.

Pat, 70, lives in Barry and has worked at College Fields Nursing Home for the past eight years. She said :”I don’t suppose we thought too much of the danger at the time or that we were being brave. All we knew is that we just had to get the resident out of that room. But I do think we saved his life.”

Shelley Jones, 21, who lives in Rhoose near Barry and has worked at the home for three years, said:“I didn’t think about being a heroine or anything like that, I was just thinking about keeping residents safe.”

Graeme Smith, local station officer for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, wrote to College Fields thanking Mr Kemp and his staff.  “I feel the staff who evacuated the patients from their rooms in the affected wing acted over and above their role. If it weren't for their actions the patient would certainly have suffered very serious injuries.

“The effective evacuation showed how well prepared you all were for this unfortunate incident.  Your bravery and preparedness are to be commended.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries for the Wales Care Awards was extremely high.

He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

“We take our hats off to them.”