A new diversionary programme run by the fire service designed to inspire young people has seen a second round of recruits graduate in style – with a special drill day and pass-out parade in front of parents, teachers and senior fire officers.
The five-day Firebreak programme has been run by Essex and Cambridgeshire firefighters at Stanground Fire Station and aims to use fire service drills and culture to develop team working skills and increase self-esteem and confidence through workshops and drill yard activities.
Twelve students from the Voyager Academy in Peterborough spent a week with firefighters learning how to use hose reels, ladders and breathing apparatus (BA) and learning first aid.
Whilst based at the station, they immersed themselves in the Service culture and shared mealtimes with firefighters.
The Firebreak programme was created by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service and has been running for a number of years with huge success in Essex, helping people develop themselves and inspiring them to go on and achieve various personal goals and better their employability and future opportunities.
Cambridgeshire firefighters have been shadowing colleagues from Essex for the first two courses, the second of which finished on Friday (January 27).
Peterborough City Council has signed up for the remaining courses throughout this year although plans are underway to expand the course across Cambridgeshire in the future.
Matt Oliver, Peterborough City Council’s Youth in Localities Team Manager, said: “This year we will be supporting young people from Peterborough to participate in a series of the week-long Firebreak programme and hope to replicate the success seen in other areas of the country.
“For some young people, the opportunity to undertake this type of learning outside the classroom can really help them to reach their full potential, not only building their aspiration, self-esteem and confidence but also helping them to learn about citizenship and public services.
We are proud to be supporting Cambridgeshire Fire Service to set up the scheme in Peterborough.”
Station Commander Vicky Best, who is the Firebreak coordinator for Cambridgeshire, said: “Throughout the week, we have seen all of the young people develop, challenge themselves and carry out activities they never thought they could do. Hopefully the course, and the skills they have taken from it, will help them when they return to school and throughout their lives.”
This is the second course that students from the Voyager Academy have attended. Students from the latest course took part in an impressive drill and pass-out parade in front of teachers, parents and fire service officials including Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland and Group Commander Kevin Napier. Also present were David Over, Simon Bywater and John Peach from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority.
Karl Amoss, Community Development and Safeguarding Deputy from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, provided the commentary throughout the drills. At the end of the pass-out parade, students were awarded their AQA certificate for a vocational award in community firefighting skills.
Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland told parents: “I wouldn’t underestimate how much time and effort has gone into this and how well your kids have done. You should be really proud.”
Group Commander Kevin Napier described the students’ work as “phenomenal.”
Last week’s course was the second one attended by students from the Voyager Academy and Heidi Latronico-Ferris, Outdoor Learning Co-ordinator at the academy, said Firebreak had already had a huge impact on the school.
“The students who did it the first time around have definitely got something out of it. We have seen an increase in self-confidence, attendance and just the desire to do well.
“The students are treated like adults and as one of the crew. They act like adults because they are treated like adults.”
Fourteen-year-old Ben, from the Voyager, said his favourite part of the course had been using the BA equipment and learning the BA shuffle, which is a special walk firefighters are taught to take them safely through smoke-logged buildings when they can’t see anything.
Sophie, 13, said: “I really enjoyed going up the ladders and just everything about the course, getting to know people like the other students and the firefighters. I feel more confident and you are taught lots of things.”
Leah, 14, said: “I feel proud of myself because the smoke house was really scary because you can’t see a thing, but I did it. All the firefighters were really supportive.”
Fourteen-year-old Alisha overcame her fear of the dark to complete an exercise in the smoke house too, where recruits went through a building filled with cosmetic smoke.
She said: “I loved the smoke house because it helped me overcome my fear of the dark. The course has taught me how the fire service helps people that are hurt and how brave they are to risk their lives going into a burning building. I would definitely recommend the course.”