ESSEX firefighters have given up more than 8,000 hours to provide extra ambulances during the coronavirus pandemic.

The county's fire and rescue service says its on-call members have also responded to more than 4,000 emergency calls since signing up as temporary ambulance drivers.

A total of 19 firefighters have spent the last 12 weeks working alongside paramedics and have dealt with a variety of incidents, including helping to deliver new babies.

One of those to step up during the pandemic is traffic enforcement officer Trevor Garrod, who has been an on-call firefighter at Braintree Fire Station for 18 years.

He said: "I have had one of the most amazing experiences and have worked with some amazing people.

"I’ve made some new friends and am really grateful for the opportunity to work with the ambulance service.

"It’s been a real eye opener, I have really thoroughly enjoyed it. My colleagues have all been really friendly and welcoming. They took the time, when we had time, to go through things and explain things properly.

"One of the most standout incidents was helping a stroke patient to hospital and later transferring him to another hospital where we watched the team carry out a procedure to help him.

"A couple of days later, we spoke to the stroke nurse and she said he was walking around and doing well, which was really great news."

Justin Knopp has also got behind of ambulances since the pandemic began.

He has been an on-call firefighter in Coggeshall for 11 years and works in the printing industry.

He said: "I’ve enjoyed the experience and feel like I’ve learnt a lot from our ambulance colleagues who have been really kind and willing to let me get stuck in. I’m really proud to have been part of this.

"Mental health crisis calls have been some of the more challenging incidents as well as cardiac arrests and paediatric medical emergencies.

"I’ve really enjoyed the experience, the paramedics have been an amazing bunch of people to work alongside, they’ve been very accommodating and great mentors."

The partnership between the ambulance and fire services has now come to an end but chief fire officer, Jo Turton, says discussions will take to see if links can be set up again in the future.

She said: "“Our partnership has been invaluable not only to the people of Essex but to us as a fire service.

"Our on-call firefighters have learned a range of new skills that will enhance their careers and their experiences with paramedics will help us work closer with our ambulance colleagues in the future.

"My thanks go to everyone who has helped to make this partnership work successfully and to our 19 on-call firefighters for the staggering amount of hours they’ve given to help make Essex safer.

"While this partnership has come to an end, our close working relationship with EEAST colleagues will remain and I look forward to seeing how we can collaborate in the future."