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Youth scheme graduates return as volunteers

Graduates of the Service’s hugely successful youth schemes have returned to Essex County Fire and Rescue Service as volunteers.

Three former Firebreak and Young Fire Fighter students have signed up to become volunteers working with the Service to help protect their communities. Jonathan Turner, Tayler Oats and Daryl Leverett were inspired to volunteer after their experiences on ECFRS' youth programmes.

Nearly 10 years ago, Jonathan Turner, 25, from Colchester, took part in the Service's very first Firebreak. He had just moved back to Essex from Sheffield and was having trouble finding work when he was put forward for the course by Chelmsford charity NACRO. “I was 17 at the time and I’d never done anything like that before,” said Jonathan.

“Firebreak was brilliant. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I didn’t know what to expect but I enjoyed everything about it and it became a defining moment in my life. What I learned in that week has helped me in everything I have done since.

“I overcame a fear of confined spaces on the course through the BA training and the instructors even held a sponsored walk to raise money for me to go to Romania to carry out two weeks of volunteering at remote schools.”

In the years since the course, Jonathan has been working as an air conditioning and refrigeration engineer. He said:  “My friend’s dad is a volunteer and he knew it was something I would be interested in, so he suggested I go for it. I have been for the induction and will start my training soon.

“Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is an organisation I really believe in. It has helped me and I know that it does so much good work. By volunteering, I can represent the organisation, repay it for the help I received and help other people as well.”

Tayler Oats, 18, from Southend, has dreamed of becoming a firefighter since she was nine years old and she got one step closer when she took part in a Young Fire Fighters Course at Southend Fire Station in 2010.

Tayler said: “It was the best 17 weeks of my life. I loved every single minute of it. We did, hose running, building dams, knot tying, first aid - all of it. My favourite part by far was the ladders.

“I used to a bit scared of heights but I got over that as a young firefighter and ended up on the ladder team rescuing a dummy from the tower and was the team leader when we came back together to do a display as part of Southend Fire Station’s next open day, so I certainly got over that.”

Tayler attends college studying graphic design and journalism and has even taken what she has learned as a young firefighter into her studies, producing a home fire safety pack for families as her final project.

She learned about the volunteering scheme when she was surfing the Service’s website earlier this year. Tayler said: “I decided it was something I would like to do, so I got in touch. The fire service is something I feel passionate about and it feels great being able to do something which helps the Service and promotes the fantastic work it does."Tayler has completed her training and is awaiting her first volunteering opportunity.

Daryl Leverett, 19, from Basildon, is a graduate of both Firebreak and Young Fire Fighters. He completed a Firebreak course around five years ago and then returned to ECFRS a year later as a Young Fire Fighter.

Daryl said: “I had a fascination with fire and a local youth club had put me forward to take part in Firebreak. I absolutely loved it.  It’s still one of the best things I have ever done and it really made me think about the dangers of playing with fire and I have never done anything like that since.

“I was invited back to take part in Young Fire Fighters which I enjoyed even more. It was more intensive and after my experience with Firebreak I already knew some of the skills.

“I made some great friends on the course and I still speak to everyone who was on that course with me - even the instructors who I see at the station from time to time.

“I stayed in touch with one instructor in particular and he told me about the volunteer scheme and I knew it was something I wanted to do straight away. The Service has given so much to me and this is a way of giving something back. It is something I am proud to do.

“I have carried out home fire safety visits and taken part in a fire safety day at a community centre. It is something I enjoy doing.”

Jonathan, Tayler and Daryl have joined the Service’s team of dedicated volunteers working in communities throughout Essex. To learn more about volunteering opportunities in the County visit our website at: http://www.essex-fire.gov.uk/Volunteering/            

The Service’s youth schemes are approaching their 10th anniversary. In their first decade, Firebreak and Young Fire Fighters have worked with more than 4,500 young people, teaching valuable life lessons and helping countless youngsters get their lives on the right track.

Both Firebreak and Young Fire Fighters use the training professional firefighters undertake to develop participants' skills in working together, building their confidence, teaching them the value of team work and accepting responsibility as they undertake a series of challenging tasks including using the Service’s powerful hose reels, wearing specialist breathing apparatus, climbing ladders and rescuing people trapped in buildings.  

Firebreak is an intensive week long course and Young Fire Fighters involves 17 weekly sessions held at fire stations across Essex.

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