Firebreak courses set to increase after latest success

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service celebrated the successful completion of its fourth Firebreak programme with news that the number of courses, designed to inspire young people, is set to increase.

The five-day diversionary programme, launched in Cambridgeshire last year, has been run by both Essex and Cambridgeshire firefighters at Stanground Fire Station with Essex instructors helping to train their Cambridgeshire counterparts.

Twelve students, from both Ormiston Bushfield Academy and Hampton College in Peterborough, graduated from Firebreak in style on Friday (June 23) with a pass-out parade in front of parents, teachers, Fire Authority member Councillor David Over and senior fire officers.

All 12 students were presented with an AQA certificate in Firefighting Skills in the Community by Area Commander Jon Anderson from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS), after demonstrating their rescue and drill skills.

The aim of Firebreak is to use fire service drills and culture to develop team working skills and increase self-esteem and confidence through classroom workshops and drill yard activities. The course aims to help students not just with confidence issues but also those struggling with performance or behaviour at school.

Group Commander Kevin Napier, from CFRS, told students what they had achieved in five days was “absolutely exceptional”, adding: “What I’d ask of you is that what you have learnt, not just the physical skills but all the skills of working as a team, simultaneous working, discipline and all these things, that you will carry them through with you onto the next stage of your life at school and certainly at home.”

Peterborough City Council has signed up for all the remaining Firebreak courses throughout 2017, but as of January 2018 the number of Firebreak courses are set to increase to nearly one a month and will expand across the county.

Sonya Hawes, Children and Young Person’s Officer with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We have really enjoyed working with the Essex Firebreak team to develop our own Firebreak course but it will be really exciting to see what direction our own courses will now take and we are very much looking forward to working with more schools across the county.

“This particular course has had a different dynamic to any of the others because it is the first time we have worked with students from two different schools but all of them have bonded really well which is testament to what firebreak is all about - good communication, team work and raising confidence and self-esteem.

“Ultimately Firebreak is not about the starting point, it’s about the outcome, and all of our students across all four courses have learnt important life skills which they will be able to transfer to their school, home and personal lives.”

Mark Crouch, Lead Instructor for Firebreak for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It has been good working alongside a different fire and rescue service and I am really pleased how everyone has worked together well as a team and delivered four successful courses.”

Students on the Cambridgeshire Firebreak course have spent the week learning how to use hose reels, ladders and breathing apparatus (BA). The course also included several classroom sessions such as basic life support, home fire safety and consequences, which included a section on road safety where students were shown a hard-hitting video about the dangers of dangerous driving and taught about taking responsibility as both a passenger and a driver.

Practical exercises have included moving around the smokehouse in the dark wearing breathing apparatus to get a sense of what it is like for firefighters going into buildings where they have little, or no, visibility and rescuing casualties.

Whilst on the course, students also immersed themselves in the Service culture, learning to be part of a team, sharing mealtimes with firefighters, and helping to keep the station clean and tidy.

Matt Oliver, youth in localities manager from the Safer Peterborough Partnership, said at the end of the pass out parade: “Firebreak is a fantastic programme and we want to see more of it.”

Lydia Davies, Student Mentor from Hampton College, said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity and I am so, so glad we have got involved and we would love to do this again.”

Leigh Drew, Assistant Principal at Ormiston Bushfield Academy, said: “I’ve been totally amazed by Firebreak and we are lucky we have had six students going through the programme this week. We have another 844 on the waiting list!”

All the students involved spoke about learning new skills, overcoming fears and gaining in confidence.

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.