Fire police awardsA “groundbreaking” collaboration between fire and police in Shropshire, Hereford and Worcester saw their first firefighter training course of Police Community Support Officers.

The initiative with West Mercia Police to train PCSOs as firefighters in more rural areas will help keep fire engines “on the run”, says Shropshire’s fire chief.

Shropshire’s first Community Support Officers to become on-call firefighters, Andy Neeves and Steve Breese, and Kirsty Jenkins from Hereford and Worcester, “passed out” at a ceremony at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury and all three will now perform an emergency services dual role.

Andy (34), who walks and cycles around Oswestry town centre as a PCSO, has already responded to more than 60 emergency fire calls since he started his dual role with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service in March this year.

“Working together like this will benefit both services and save money. I don’t respond to a fire call if I’m dealing with a police incident but if I am able, then I go.”

A former Superdrug store manager in Shrewsbury, Andy now works for the police for 37 hours and is available on call for fire duties for up to 84 hours a week with firefighting colleagues based at Oswestry Fire Station.

“Training police Community Support Officers as firefighters is a groundbreaking approach and makes a lot of sense,” said Shropshire’s chief fire officer Rod Hammerton.

“It provides the fire and rescue service with firefighters where they are hardest to find and provides local communities with an additional layer of protection.

“It is difficult to attract firefighter recruits in some parts of Shropshire and it is sometimes a struggle to crew fire appliances, especially during weekdays.

This innovative approach will help us tackle that issue,” added the fire chief.

“We are always on the lookout for capable people to become on-call firefighters. It just so happens that PCSOs hold many of the qualities we look for in a firefighter so I think this initiative is an excellent fit for us and the community,” he said.

Shropshire PCSO Steve Breese was presented with the top student award for his course.

We'd really like to hear what you think about blue light collaboration - the topics are central to the lives of all the people working in the emergency services - and beyond. Come along to FIRE’s Congress: Reimagining the Emergency Services: From integrated governance to integrated service delivery will take place at West Midlands Fire Service HQ on November 15. Have your say on the changes that are happening in your service.