Pupils from two schools in the the Lisburn and Castlereagh area had the chance to get fighting fit whilst working alongside local firefighters when they took part in a recent Fire Fitness scheme.

Fire Fitness was a pilot programme developed with the support of Sport Northern Ireland’s National Lottery-funded Every Body Active 2020 programme. It was created in partnership between Sport Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Officers within the Community Planning Partnership in Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council. The pilot programme also combined the skills of Lisburn and Castlereagh Every Body Active 2020 coaches.

When the pilot was launched, there were two desired outcomes that both parties wanted to achieve. To increase physical activity levels in children using fire service protocols and to also help reduce negative behaviour towards Fire Service personnel when carrying out duties.

Laurelhill Community College and St. Patricks College were the two lucky schools involved in the project which was conducted after school for six weeks, for 1 hour a week in the post primary schools. Using a combination of sport as well as Fire and Rescue Service fitness protocols, a programme was developed for Physical Activity programme for Year 8 and 9 schoolchildren. The participants selected for the project were identified in conjunction with teachers, with the primary focus on children who were inactive.

To encourage children to take part in the scheme, they were provided with information on local opportunities on how to stay fit and healthy in the area. For those, who really enjoyed the programme, they were also given information on future career opportunities within the NIFRS and the Sports Sector, in particular opportunities to participate in the Fire and Rescue Service Cadet Academy.

Throughout the development of the project, the influence of working in partnership alongside the Fire and Rescue Service was the key focus of all planning in particular how they could maximise the use of the resources.

One of the Every Body Active Coaches involved in the delivery of the Fire Fitness projects was Kevin Grieve. Kevin joined the Council in 2010 as part of the National Lottery funded Active Communities project and last year moved into his current role within the Everybody Active 2020 programme.

“Thanks to the support of National Lottery players and the working relationship of partner agencies through the community planning partnerships, Fire Fitness was a great success and had a tremendous impact on the participants. It provided young people who wouldn’t normally take part in physical activity with the opportunity to get involved in a unique fitness based programme.

“With hose rolling runs, dummy run shuttles and many other NIFRS themed activities running through the classes, the young people were never bored and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Through feedback we found that some young people with no real appetite for fitness programmes were surprised to find how much they enjoyed this fitness programme with a twist. Fitness testing helped us discover that fitness levels improved over the six week programme, and survey feedback also showed an improved attitude towards the NIFRS as the programme concluded. One personal highlight of the project was watching youths who initially expressed dislike or apprehension towards physical activity taking leadership roles and expressing great levels of commitment towards team tasks.”