Award from High Sheriff for Firebreak courses to help young people

A generous award from the High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire will support the fire service with its work to inspire and help young people.

The £4,000 grant, part of The Pride of Cambridgeshire awards, will help Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) to deliver Firebreak sessions to young people in the county, to help students to build their confidence and also those struggling with performance or behaviour at school.

The award comes after the High Sheriff, Dr Andy Harter CBE and his wife Ms Lily Bacon DL, attended the passing out celebration event for students at Cottenham Fire Station last summer.

Dr Harter said: “Firebreak is a really terrific initiative for young people who need a boost in confidence and self-esteem.  We saw first-hand the transformation that an intensive, immersive programme can make, and we are pleased to provide support for it to continue and expand.”

The award was presented to Station Commander Tony Burton by Carol Vorderman MBE at a ceremony held at the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology.

Station Commander Tony Burton said: “We are very thankful for this generous donation from the High Sheriff. Firebreak is a crucial way for us to engage with young people and it is only possible thanks to funding like this.

“Firebreak is all about inspiring and helping young people to develop their team-working skills and increasing self-esteem, through engaging classroom workshops and drill yard activities. By challenging themselves in a supportive environment, participants can develop skills around team work and relationship building, focusing on reaching their potential and becoming an active and contributing member of their community.

“We’ve been lucky enough to deliver eight Firebreak courses so far and seeing what each group achieves in just five days is incredible. The feedback from students completing the courses has been fantastic. We want to continue to deliver more courses, but for us to do so we need to raise additional funding, so the award from the High Sheriff is very welcome.”

The Firebreak course is an action packed five day programme, where young people immerse themselves in the fire service culture. They take part in drill yard activities and get hands-on with equipment, like learning how to use hose reels, ladders and breathing apparatus (BA). They also take part in classroom sessions and learn life-saving skills like basic life support, home fire safety road safety. Throughout the week they overcome their fears, gain confidence, and learn new skills, which they will be able to transfer to their school, home and personal lives.

Each course culminates with a passing out parade, where participants demonstrate their practical achievements and are awarded their certification in front of their proud families and teachers. The High Sheriff and his wife attended the passing out parade for a group of students from North Cambridge Academy and Swavesey Village College, both school members of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust. The group impressed with the skills they learned from their week-long course so much that it led to the award.

Martin Campbell, Principal of North Cambridge Academy said; ‘The pass out parade, where multiple different skills and learning was demonstrated, was perhaps one of the best pass out parades for any organisation I have witnessed. 

“There was a variety of activities, including ladder drills, administering CPR to a casualty, running out hoses and hose drills with different strengths of water pressure. These were all carried out through the use of whistle instructions and were an excellent method of teaching the young people, from both schools, how team work and communication plays a huge part in successful organisations.  If I could, I would make every young person, in both schools, attend this excellent course of learning.”

Firebreak also supports the students ongoing development, with each being given a firefighter mentor, along with next steps plan and a bespoke social action project as part of a 12 month follow up.

To find out more about Firebreak, including ways of getting involved and funding courses or having Firebreak in your school, visit our Community Safety section or email

Photos from the presentation are available in the News 2019 folder on our Flickr account below:

News 2019