FIREFIGHTERS and police roles could merge in Dorset if a new pilot scheme is successful.

Trials are currently under way to see if Police and Fire Community Support Officers could be created in the county to increase availability and meet demand.

Such roles could mean firefighters could get involved in traditional police tasks such as concerns for welfare.

In turn, Police Community Support Officers could take on roles as retained firefighters across the county.

Dorset already shares a fire service with Wiltshire, where the trials are taking place.

Assistant chief fire officer James Mahoney said: "We are currently running a pilot of Police and Fire Community Support Officers (PFCSOs) in Wiltshire, focusing on enhanced community safety and availability for fire calls.

"We are monitoring this pilot with police colleagues in both Dorset and Wiltshire and the current indications are very positive.

"When we have the full outcomes, we will look to work with Dorset Police to ensure the level of service to the public is maximised."

As reported in the Daily Echo, Dorset's Police Community Support Officers are already being trained as firefighters as part of a new 'job-swap' agreement.

The idea of officers and fire crews sharing duties was discussed for the first time last year. In return, firefighters were set to get involved in some elements of police work under the initiative.

Chief Constable James Vaughan of Dorset Police said PCSOs will act as retained crew at under-staffed fire stations.

During a public meeting, he said: “If your house catches fire, you don’t care who turns up as long as they’re there.”

Firefighters will in turn visit homes where there is a concern for an occupant, he said, citing an example of “Betty, who hasn’t been seen for three days”.

“There are 50 of those [calls] a month for us,” he said.

“Fire crews will now go around and break in. They are first aiders and public servants.”

The services will not charge each other for the use of employees.

The scheme was initially mooted in a bid to tackle Dorset Police's ongoing financial troubles.

Earlier this month Devon and Cornwall Police became the first force in the country to train firefighters as special constables.

Seven members of the Devon and Somerset fire service completed their training and are now described as community responders.