INSPIRING firefighters who have stepped up to help under pressure paramedics during the pandemic have put in just shy of 4,000 hours of vital work.

Last month 19 crew members from the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service were selected to work alongside the East of England Ambulance Service.

The brave firefighters’ first shifts came on Easter Monday and their main job has been to act as additional ambulance drivers and help paramedics respond to calls-outs.

The new team has now been providing essential assistance to the ambulance service for six weeks, helping the potential lifesavers in dealing with nearly 2,000 calls.

In total, this has seen the crews tirelessly put 4,000 hours of additional help into the emergency service, which has been pivotal in freeing-up in-demand paramedics.

Adriaan Phillipsen, for example, who has been an on-call firefighter at Frinton Fire Station for 14 years, even helped delivery to baby boys during a shift.

"Being able to bring a little bit of joy into the world in this time of uncertainty and sadness is a great experience,” he said.

"The role of an ambulance driver has been really eye-opening and I’m really enjoying it.

“I’ve been crewed with a different paramedic each time and it’s interesting to see the different ways that people work - I've learned a lot so far."

As well as driving the ambulances, employees at the fire service have also been leading courses on how to become non-emergency ambulance drivers.

Paul Smith, Chris Faulkner, and Tony Mead, all driving instructors at the service, have so far taught paramedic students, military personnel and community first responders.

Jo Turton, who is the chief fire officer and chief executive at the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, praised the efforts of her crews during this difficult time.

“The work that our colleagues driving ambulances are doing is incredible, and they are doing both themselves and our service really proud,” she said.

“We are getting some fantastic feedback about the difference that they’re making.

“The training from our driving instructors has meant that there are now 27 more ambulance drivers across Essex, which is just fantastic for our public, and fantastic that we can support in this way."