County firefighters have clocked up more than 700 hours supporting their fellow blue-light heroes in the East Midlands Ambulance Service during the Covid-19 crisis.
A dozen Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service firefighters started training EMAS two months ago and have now carried out more than 70 shifts, working alongside Urgent Care medics and performing tasks such as driving vehicles and the safe moving and handling of patients.
On-call firefighter Ashley Hunt, who works from Wellingborough and Earls Barton, is among the 12 who volunteered to work with EMAS during the crisis.
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He said: "When I joined the fire service I did not imagine I would be working for EMAS, but doing this really has been rewarding.”
“We drive the urgent care vehicles to transport patients to hospital or back home. We are with a qualified urgent care technician.
"They make the medical decisions and we carry out all necessary driving. It gives me the opportunity to learn about something completely different to my usual work with the fire service.
“The knowledge and experience our ambulance colleagues pass on to us is invaluable. We learn from each other’s ways of working."
Northamptonshire is just one of the fire and rescue services asked to take part in this work, with others in the region including Humberside, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.
Michael Jones, general manager for Northamptonshire at East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “We are incredibly grateful for the support of our colleagues from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service during these unprecedented times.
“We already work very closely with NFRS through our Emergency Services Volunteers and so this extra support has built on the great relationship we have with the fire service.
“A big thank you to all who have stepped forward to help.”
Firefighters from the various services have trained in many of the basic skills they need to take part in this work.
Their training included a two-day EMAS familiarisation course and two weeks spent at the Hazardous Area Response Team centre in Mansfield and at education and development centres in Northampton, Lincoln and Leicester.
Group Manager Stefan Douglas said: “Every one of the firefighters now working with EMAS volunteered to take on these extra duties and I’ve been so impressed with the commitment they’ve shown to absorbing a fresh set of skills and working in a different way.
“The service as a whole continues to respond to fire and other emergencies normally attended by NFRS, but we were proud to be able to also help another emergency service at a time when health responders have been among those under so much pressure.
"This has been a positive learning experience for our firefighters and we are pleased to have been able to take these extra steps to help keep Northamptonshire safe.”