RESIDENTS in east Durham have been invited to help save lives in their own communities.

East Durham Trust are recruiting volunteers who will be trained by ex-fire fighters 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.

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Already this year in County Durham there have been seven home fires resulting in fatalities, and many more which have caused significant damage to homes. In all cases the fires could have been avoided by better monitoring and advice.

Jointly funded by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue and North Peterlee Neighbourhood Pathfinder, the pilot project will create a small army of experts who can reduce the number of home fires and ultimately save lives.

East Durham Trust chief executive Malcolm Fallow, who is managing the project, 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".

Any people wishing to get involved in the project should contact Abby Thompson at East Durham Trust on 0191- 569 3511 or email abby.thompson@eastdurhamtrust.org.uk.

Volunteers on the project will be entitled to have all travel costs reimbursed, and will receive a uniform and ongoing training and advice.