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Norfolk fire chiefs not planning to train firefighters to give them arrest powers

Firefighters tackle a house fire. Fire chiefs say they have no plans to train up firefighters to give them the power of arrest.  Picture: Chris Bishop

Firefighters tackle a house fire. Fire chiefs say they have no plans to train up firefighters to give them the power of arrest. Picture: Chris Bishop

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Fire chiefs in Norfolk have said they have no plans to follow a controversial pilot scheme where firefighters have been recruited as special constables and given the power of arrest.

Seven firefighters with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service have been trained up as special constables for new community responder roles - aimed at boosting police presence in rural communities.

Following two months of training, it means the community responders have the power of arrest, although they must prioritise fighting blazes before tackling crime.

While Alison Hernandez, the police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall hailed the scheme as a way to make communities safer, the move was criticised by the Fire Brigades Union and the Police Federation.

Concerns were raised about the potential for conflict between the two roles, with the FBU saying independence from the police for the fire service was crucial.

A spokesperson for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said there were no plans in the pipeline for the creation of similar officers in Norfolk.

She said: “We are aware of this development and this is not currently something we are considering in Norfolk.

“We are in a collaborative arrangement with Norfolk Constabulary where current priorities for future joint working are being established, alongside existing examples.

“Any future development of similar arrangements would only follow extensive dialogue with our Norfolk Constabulary colleagues.”

Last year, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Lorne Green spent almost £100,000 on a process to explore whether he should take on responsibility for the fire service from Norfolk County Council.

The move put the Conservative commissioner at loggerheads with Tory-controlled County Hall.

And Mr Green announced in November that he would not be submitting a final business case to the government - despite an eight-week consultation in which 59pc of more than 7,700 people who responded supported a switch.

However it did lead to Mr Green being offered membership of the fire and rescue authority communities committee and for further collaborative work between the two blue light services.

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