YOUNG carers enjoyed a well-deserved break from their daily responsibilities during half-term as they joined Swindon firefighters on a fun yet challenging training course.

A group of 18 registered users of Swindon Young Carers, aged between 12 to 16, spent five days shadowing crews at Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service as part of the Salamander programme.

The project encourages youngsters to work as a team, while building up confidence and self-esteem, and offers them the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities.

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Ethan helping to cut the roof off a car

As part of their training the novices learned a catalogue of essential firefighting skills, tried their hands at abseiling and ladder climbing, and joined in search and rescue exercises. Over five days, the teenagers were also coached in casualty care, road traffic collision and water rescue.

On Friday, they received certificates at Drove Road station where they put on a display of their new-found skills for family, friends and senior fire and rescue service officers.

Louise Fackrell, 13, a carer to her 11-year-old sister, proudly walked through a smoke-filled room to rescue a dummy as part of the demonstration.

“I’ve learned a lot about how to be safe and how to be more confident,” said the St Joseph’s Catholic College student.

“I care for my younger sister and it was a nice break for me. It’s nice to be with others who care for somebody too and to talk to them about what you are struggling with.”

All participants invited on the course care for a parent or sibling with a physical disability, long-term health problems, learning difficulties, mental health problems, or substance misuse issues. James Reid, 14, who cares for his two younger brothers, was delighted to find out a place had opened up on the programme at the last minute.

“It was a really fun opportunity,” said the Highworth Warneford School pupil, from Hannington.