Twelve students pass out from latest Firebreak course

Twelve more students have graduated from a new diversionary programme from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) designed to inspire young people in the county.

The five-day Firebreak programme was launched in Cambridgeshire last year and has been run by Essex and Cambridgeshire firefighters at Stanground Fire Station with the aim of using fire service drills and cultures to develop team working skills and increase self-esteem and confidence through workshops and drill yard activities.

Peterborough City Council has already signed up to all the courses throughout the remainder of 2017, with plans to expand the Firebreak programme across the county in the near future.

Students from the Jack Hunt School in Peterborough graduated in style at a pass-out parade at Stanground Fire Station on Friday (March 31st) by demonstrating their rescue and drill skills in front of parents, teachers and senior fire officers.

Sonya Hawes, Children and Young Peoples Officer with CFRS, talked parents through the drills and what the students were doing.

Group Commander Kevin Napier, from CFRS, told the assembled group: “I don’t think we could ever explain to you, nor should we underestimate, the education and skills these young people have picked up in just five days. It can take up to twelve weeks for a professional firefighter to learn these skills and for the students to pick them up in five days is incredibly remarkable so you should be extremely proud of them.”

All twelve students were presented with an AQA certificate in Firefighting Skills in the Community by CFRS’ Area Commander Callum Faint.

Matt Oliver, youth in localities manager from the Peterborough City Council Safer Peterborough Partnership, said: “With projects like Firebreak you can just see the development that the young people have gone through.”

Kerry Cliffe, Assistant Head at Jack Hunt School, added: “I know what it takes and how kind and caring you have to be to young people to achieve what they have done today. It’s not all about grades. It is all about self-esteem, confidence and bravery and to try and try again in education and everything you do in life. I just want the students  to know how proud you have made me and how you have made me smile from ear to ear.”

Friday’s pass-out parade marks the end of the third course, run by CFRS in conjunction with the course creators, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

Students from the school spent the week with firefighters learning how to use hose reels, ladders and breathing apparatus (BA) as well learning first aid. Practical exercises have also involved moving around the smokehouse in the dark to get a sense of what it is like for firefighters going into buildings where they have little, or no, visibility.

Students also participated in classroom sessions addressing consequences of behaviour, covering subjects such as Road Safety and Home Fire Safety, educating students in what to do in the event of a fire in their own homes and the importance of having a working smoke alarm. Home Fire Safety also covered having a good night-time routine in order to prevent a fire; for example, shutting all doors at night to help contain a fire in the event of one breaking out.

Whilst on the course, students also immersed themselves in the Service culture, learning to be part of a team and sharing 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.

Station Commander Vicky Best, who is the Firebreak coordinator for Cambridgeshire, said: “It has been a real pleasure to watch students on the course grow in confidence, ability and skills over the week. The positive feedback we are getting from the schools we have worked with has been amazing and a real testament to the success of the course and the hard work of everyone involved, both students and firefighters.”

Fourteen year-old student Luke said: “I have now got the confidence to work with people I wouldn’t normally work with. I used to mess about a bit and joke in school but this is going to mould me into a better person. I think it’s because of the discipline on the course. As soon as you do something wrong they are on it like a car bonnet, but they’ve been fantastic, the whole crew has been really supportive.”

Eleven-year-old Dillon said: “The course has changed me a lot as a person. It’s changed my confidence. Here you have lots of different people to work with. They don’t just tell you off, they talk to you and then tell you to get back to it.”

He said he enjoyed climbing ladders but didn’t like the breathing apparatus as it covered his face, but he did conquer his fear by going back to use it a second time.

Thirteen-year-old student Miles, added: “I have gained confidence and conquered my fear of heights as well as improved my communications skills. I used to be quite quiet but I needed to shout out communications so I am quite loud now."

Photos from the parade can be found on our Flickr page here.