“I was delighted to visit Shipston’s young firefighters,” Mr Zahawi told the Herald. “The enthusiasm of the children, volunteers and parents involved was obvious, and a real inspiration.

“Community schemes like young firefighters are a wonderful way to teach young people responsibility, teamwork and commitment, as well as practical skills like first aid.”

Earmarked for closure because the fire service has to save £2.4 million by 2018, fire chiefs say they can save between £40-£50,000 scrapping the young firefighters.

Started in 1997, children between 11 and 18 meet once a week to practice marching, fire drills, pitching ladders and running hoses.

There used to be 250 young firefighters at 16 stations, but the number has steadily dwindled and now there are 61 children at four stations.

It’s currently free but parents are happy to start paying for the service.

Stratford-on-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi, with the Mayor of Shipston, Philip Vial (right), alongside Shipston's Young Firefighters.

Stratford-on-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi, with the Mayor of Shipston, Philip Vial (right), alongside Shipston’s Young Firefighters.

 

Lead campaigner Donna Hall, whose 12-year-old son Matthew is a young firefighter, said: “Hopefully the powers that be will hear what he [Nadhim] and us have to say and rethink the decision to shut us down.”

However, Warwickshire’s assistant chief fire officer, Gary Phillips, confirmed on Tuesday the fire service were focusing instead on schools.

“Engaging with young people is vital but the schools give us a fantastic opportunity,” he told the Herald.

More children are reached by going into schools and it’s cheaper.

“We can identify the right children we need to get across to so they don’t become tomorrow’s arsonists,” said Mr Phillips, who attributes a 40 per cent fall in arson in Nuneaton and Bedworth over the last three years to their work in schools.

Although the fire service are removing their links to the young firefighters, it is open to “external agencies” taking over the four groups in Shipston, Bidford, Wellesbourne and Kenilworth.

Matthew Hall, 12, son of lead campaigner Donna Hall.

Matthew Hall, 12, son of lead campaigner Donna Hall.

 

But parents and campaigners still want firefighters to be involved.

“We are asking for firefighters to maintain the YFA if the parents will contribute financially,” said the Mayor of Shipston, Philip Vial.

“We are basically asking Nadhim to see if he can broker a compromise with the fire service.”

The Young Firefighters practice putting out a car fire.

One of the young firefighters pretends to  put out a car fire.

This article first appeared in the Herald on Thursday 17th July. For the latest South Warwickshire news pick up the paper each Thursday for 60p.

All photos: Jackie Bedford