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Fire horror inspired me to spread safety message; TOXTETH Station boss pens story for children.

Byline: Nick Humphreys

A FORMER fire fighter turned children's author has unveiled a mural of his popular character at a north west hospital.

Dave Fanning, a former Toxteth station commander, created Phil the Fire Engine to help educate children about the dangers of fire and how they start.

His books impressed Everton captain Phil Neville so much that he wrote to him inviting him to work with the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, where he is a patron.

Although Mr Fanning originally designed the books as an educational resource for use in schools, the stories have proved so popular for staff and patients at the hospital's burns unit that an eight feet by four feet mural has now been installed in the hospital depicting Phil the Fire Engine. It reads: "Phil says don't play with matches and fire". Avid Blues' fan Dave first became passionate about teaching children about fire safety in the 1980s, after witnessing a horrendous blaze that killed an 18-month-old girl which her three-year-old brother had accidentally started in their home.

After the ordeal he set about designing a programme for schools in Merseyside which inspired Phil the Fire Engine.

He said: "I'm absolutely thrilled to see Phil the Fire Engine's message about fire safety getting out there and getting so much positive feedback from the hospitals, fire services and schools that are using them. It's my goal to see them made available to as many children as possible."

He added: "Staff at the hospital do an absolutely outstanding job in their work with children being treated in their burns unit.

"I started writing the books after seeing firsthand how important it is for children to be aware of fire safety issues, so it's great that they are now being used to help youngsters who have been injured in fires, too."

Theresa Coucill, Burns Discharge Co-ordinator at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, said: "We are really excited about having a mural of Phil the Fire Engine as he is a character that all the kids just love.

As well as being fun stories, they are a great tool for educating young children about fire safety and helping them process what has happened to them. The mural will be a very colourful addition to the Paediatric Emergency Department."

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Former Toxteth Fire Station Commander Dave Fanning with his mural at Manchester Children's Hospital
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 8, 2012
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