Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) is continuing to provide its additional support to South Western Ambulance Service (SWASFT), with the first wave finishing last weekend.

Firefighters from across the Service have so far provided nearly 30 shifts driving ambulances, and this work will now continue until the 5th June.

So far, 14 staff have been involved in additional blue light driving, but 34 staff have been trained to drive the two additional ambulances based at Nailsea fire station and co-located at SWASFT’s Bristol Ambulance Station.

Those involved have been added to a weekly shift rota and it is hoped that more staff will get the opportunity to support over the coming weeks.

The move follows an agreement between the National Employers, National Fire Chiefs Council and the Fire Brigades Union to support local authorities and the NHS.

Iain Campbell, Station Manager and volunteer lead for AF&RS, said: “Working with SWASFT has been a really great learning experience across the Service and has allowed for us to support our colleagues at a time when they are stretched.

“So far, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both our ambulance colleagues and staff who have put themselves forward during these unprecedented times.

“Not only are we supporting ambulance crews, but our staff are learning more about how our colleagues operate and it has really strengthened our bond within the blue light family. Similarly, SWASFT have come back to say how much their staff have also benefitted from working closer with fire service staff.

“Mostly though, I want to say thank you to our staff who have put themselves forward to support during these trying times.

“All of our staff have adapted incredibly well and come forward with the right attitude. We have seen staff across the Service living our values whilst going above and beyond what would normally be required.

“This work will continue until June and I am confident that our relationship with SWASFT will be all the stronger for it.”

Ross Morgan, On-Call Firefighter at Chew fire station and first wave volunteer, added: “This has been an incredible experience during incredible times.

"At the start of the year, I didn’t think I would be driving ambulances but I’ve learnt a lot and it has been interesting to see how others operate.

"When the Service asked if anyone wanted to help, it made sense. I can drive a fire engine so wanted to do what I could to help.

"It's also been fantastic to help out in the community when needed. I’ve really developed a better understanding of the ambulance service but mostly it has just been great to help out when others need it.”

Through the Local Resilience Forum, AF&RS will continue to offer support where it can to partner organisations.

More than 190 volunteers have come from both an operational and non-operational background, and each one has offered to help in whatever way they can throughout the period.

Derek McCullough, SWAST Resilience Officer for Interoperable Capabilities’ and project lead, added: “We are incredibly grateful to AF&RS and other fire services across the South West for their support during this time.

“The partnership has involved our fire service colleagues helping us to crew 15 additional ambulances as part of our wider COVID-19 response plan.

“AF&RS are helping to make a significant contribution to our patient care and our ability to respond to increasing demands on our service. Their support and teamwork has helped to make this project extremely effective.”