Donna Hall’s 12-year-old son, Matthew, has been going to Shipston Young Firefighters for the past two years.

“He’s going to be heartbroken,” she said. “He’s going to be so upset because there is nothing else that has grasped his attention like this.”

As well as learning how to run hoses, set up water dams, and tie knots, Matthew has been taught valuable skills like first aid and fire safety.

“I can see my son has grown in confidence,” said 41-year-old teaching assistant Donna. “This is something he’s done well at; now he would like to join the fire service.”

Donna has now launched a petition in Shipston to save the Young Firefighters.

It currently has a couple of hundred signatures and the campaign has already been backed by the town’s new mayor, Cllr Philip Vial. The concerned mum is now going to distribute some to local shops.

However, Donna is resigned to the loss. “I don’t think for one minute this is going to change anything,” she said.

Although the fire service cuts are subject to a consultation period which ends on the 20th June, it appears the young firefighters are doomed.

Started in 1997, the young firefighters now have groups in Shipston, Bidford, Wellesbourne, Southam and Kenilworth. Children between 11 and 18 meet up once a week at their local fire stations to practice marching, fire service drills, pitching ladders and running hoses.

They take part in fundraising activities like car washes, fetes, and car boot shows; branches often attend their local Remembrance Day parades.

Matthew Hall in his young firefighters uniform.

Matthew Hall in his young firefighters uniform.

In March, Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service announced cuts of £2.4 million, but parents only recently realised it meant the end of the young firefighters.

The scheme is currently free, and children even get a full uniform complete with fire tunic and leggings, protective boots, gloves, helmet; and jacket.
Donna said she’d happily pay subs, but the fire service said it wouldn’t be enough.

Warwickshire’s assistant chief fire officer Jim Onions said: “It is not sustainable to collect sufficient subscriptions for the Young Firefighters’ Association to cover the investment that is required for safeguarding training, policy writing, insurance and other overhead costs.”

He said that it was “with regret” that they could not continue to support the association.

Warwickshire County Council, which runs the fire service, will rubber-stamp the cuts after 20th June.

“We acknowledge the popularity of the Young Firefighters’ Association and we also recognise the commitment of both the young firefighters and their instructors,” said a council spokesperson.

“However, we cannot continue to provide the same level of support because of budget and staff reductions.”

“Tough decisions need to be made and activities need to be targeted at the most vulnerable sectors of the community,” he added.

Fire safety messages will continue to be delivered to children via visits to schools.

UPDATE: This article was amended on 4th June 2014 to state there are 61 young firefighters and 27 instructors. Initially the article stated there were 250 children and 80 staff in the association. This information was provided by the official YFA section on the Warwickshire County Council website.