Police community support officers in Devon are doubling up as retained firefighters as part of a new trial.

The initiative aims to reduce costs for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) while also improving public safety according to Fire Risk Management Journal. Police community support officers (PCSOs) are being trained to operate as retained firefighters and will carry pagers and respond to fire calls when they are on duty. This scheme will initially operate from seven fire stations in Devon but if successful may be extended.

The scheme has already drawn national interest from other force areas and the Home Office who are actively promoting closer working between the police and fire services nationally.

Police Community Support Officers in Devon are putting on fire helmets to attend emergency calls and provide valuable prevention advice to the public in an innovative pilot scheme designed to improve public safety and save money.

DSFRS area manager Neil Blackburn has been instrumental in launching the initiative. He said: ‘As well as providing a better service and reducing costs, this will also help us to provide fire response cover in communities where we have struggled to recruit sufficient retained officers who can provide cover during office hours because of their own work commitments, so it really does provide both services and the community with significant benefits. We feel that the role of a PCSO fits really well with that of locally-based fire officers and have had a great deal of interest from PCSOs locally which is really encouraging.’

Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Tony Hogg added: ‘The police service is very clear on where it wants to go and this scheme fits in to the changing vision of the police. The police and fire roles in the community can complement each other to address vulnerability and provide a better service to the public.’

The scheme will run for two years and feedback from those involved as well as the public will be collated and inform future delivery options.