London firefighters will drive ambulances and give emergency first aid, as the service steps up to help paramedics in the fight against coronavirus.
Up to 300 of the capital’s 5,000 firefighters will work with London Ambulance drivers to tackle the high demand caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
More than 11,000 people are calling 999 every day in London – but last week, 900 of the ambulance service’s 6,000 staff were off sick or self-isolating.
Chief executive Garrett Emerson said the service was facing “unprecedented levels of demand”, with the peak of the virus still to come – on top of the 15% hit to the workforce.
But as fellow emergency service workers, firefighters are already trained to drive blue light vehicles and deliver emergency first aid.
That means they can be trained and ready to help paramedics in just one day.
Firefighters attending emergency calls will wear their normal uniform, but will have extra protection – face masks, gloves and goggles – to stop the spread of the virus.
More than 500 firefighters – over 11% of the workforce – are now off sick or self-isolating.
But London fire chief Andy Roe said his staff would do “all we can” to support the emergency response to Covid-19.
He said: “Within hours of us agreeing the detail of how we can support London Ambulance Service and NHS partners, we had hundreds of firefighters step forward to volunteer.”
Mr Roe said the brigade was reducing community safety work and non-essential training so it stayed well prepared to fight fires – and so staff were freed up to help the Ambulance Service.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan today praised the enthusiasm of London’s firefighters doing their bit to tackle the pandemic.
He said: “Their commitment to keeping Londoners safe on top of their usual jobs builds on the remarkable community spirit we are seeing across the capital.
“I want to thank the London Ambulance Service for working night and day during this public health crisis to respond to the unprecedented demand they are seeing.
“I’m so proud of the way Londoners are working together to ensure we are well placed to respond to the unprecedented challenges we face in the coming weeks and help save lives.”
Today’s announcement follows a national agreement of the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Fire Brigades Union, which could see fire brigades helping paramedics across the country.