FIRE chiefs have agreed to recruit apprentice firefighters, in a bid to tackle Dorset Fire & Rescue Service’s (DFRS) ageing workforce timebomb.

Proposals to introduce operational firefighter apprenticeships, that will see five young people taken on in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, were agreed by members of the county’s fire authority at its latest meeting.

Figures published in the Daily Echo earlier this year revealed that of the 798 people employed by DFRS, only 91 were under the age of 29. Those at the top had described this situation as a ‘major concern’.

Now, county fire chief Darran Gunter, said: “I am delighted that Dorset Fire Authority approved the development of the Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship scheme.

“This exciting new project is not only going to allow the service to address our ageing workforce concerns but also support the training and development of young people in our communities.”

The estimated costs for recruiting an apprentices expected to be around £30,000 for three years.

DFRS does not have any wholetime firefighters under 25 and only one manager in the service is aged under 40.

Mr Gunter said: “This will be a fantastic opportunity for five young people in Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole allowing them to gain a number of qualifications and potentially a career as a professional firefighter.

“Whilst all public services face a very challenging future, we must continue to ensure that wherever possible we provide opportunities for local young people. I look forward to welcoming our five apprentices to DFRS over the coming months.”

Targets narrowly missed

DORSET Fire & Rescue Service (DFRS) narrowly missed its target for fire related injuries last year, according to the latest figures.

But the county service did achieve a number of key targets – including reducing the number of fire related deaths from five in 2012/13, to three last financial year.

Dorset’s firefighters rescued 42 people from fires in 2013/14 and 112 from accidents on the county’s roads. A further 25 people were saved from flooding related incidents. The target set for fire related injuries for the same period, 29, was missed by just one – with 30 injuries recorded.

According to the latest Dorset Fire Authority figures, DFRS also achieved its target for the number of accidental dwelling fires. In 2013/14 they attended 438 against a target of 456.

The year end target of fires in commercial buildings was also met with January-March having the lowest number of these fires, 38, of any quarter in the last five years.

Mr Gunter said: “Although it is disappointing that we missed targets in some areas of our work, I am really pleased with the hard work and efforts of my staff to reduce the amount of fire related deaths and injuries in 2013/14. We will continue to work hard with our partners to reduce the amount of road traffic collisions we attend and make Dorset’s roads safer for all.”