What does a fire and rescue service 300 kilometres away from the Olympic Park in London have to do with the 2012 Games? The answer lies in an innovative approach to community engagement, which is catching on around the UK.
Fire Fit is the brainchild of the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS), a regional fire service operating 26 community fire stations for 1.4 million people living in and around the city of Liverpool. A London 2012 Inspire Mark winning project, Fire Fit aims to build “safer and stronger communities” through a diverse programme of grassroots sporting, cultural and health-related activities. These are organised and run by members of the MFRS fire service together with a network of partners.
Initiatives include building a family-oriented assault course, bringing “cage football” and mobile climbing walls onto inner-city estates, staging community theatre productions in local fire stations and organising sport “summer fun days” – designed to encourage community cohesion and promote public health and safety. As well as bringing people together and encouraging them to live healthier, more active lives, Fire Fit has also benefited the emergency services. The MFRS’s evaluation reports suggest that there has been a reduction in fire- and police-related incidents in those areas where Fire Fit has engaged with the local community, especially with young people.