History of UK Fire Cadets

The history of the firefighter began in ancient Rome under the rule of Augustus in the 3rd Century and as long as can be remembered fire services have demonstrated a strong moral responsibility to contribute to the development of our young people. This provision is embedded and reflective of the values of the service and the firefighter as a positive role model and is widely recognised by partners and government as having a positive impact, reducing antisocial behaviour and promoting positive outcomes in young people.

Fire Cadets have long been an important part of this provision with the first recorded ‘Cadet’ type unit formed by Kurt hahn in 1941 at Gordonstoun School in Scotland which, according to Hahn, was the most important element of education at the school.  Incidentally this still forms part of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service operational response to this day and is the only unit of its type in the UK.

Click here for more information on Kurt Hahn and the origin of Gordonstoun’s Fire Unit. 

The current model of UK Fire Cadets has only been in existence for a few years and we are working very hard to create the traditions and experience that other uniformed youth organisations have built up over many years.  Initially each FRS operated independently from the next and despite previous attempts no sustainable common approach was available.

In 2012 the then Chief Fire Officers Association Children (CFOA) now National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), Children and Young People workstream, under the leadership of Phil Garrigan, began to explore the development of a new collaborative approach to Fire Cadets that would be formalised within the CFOA governance.  This led to the formation of the Fire Cadets Board in May 2013 which was a collaborative approach involving all 43 UK Fire Services.  The creation of the Fire Cadet Board has been one of the key success of the CYP workstream and led to the creation of wider support for work with Children and Young People by the Fire Sector.  In its short existence this new collaborative approach has brought many benefits to services and young people including national approaches to:

  • Uniform
  • Award scheme with B-TEC accreditation
  • Branding
  • Event and activities
  • Website
  • Data-management system
  • Support and Guidance for services
  • Networking and development opportunities for Cadet Instructors and managers

The Cadets Board carried out a review of its operating model in 2019 and put in place a new dynamic structure with the creation of a management group made up of ten service representatives to ensure that the direction of Fire Cadets continues to meet the needs of the sector.  This review also resulted in a slight name change to UK Fire Cadets and created an increase in networking opportunities for those involved including the development of the voice of young people and support for instructors.

Fire Cadets are still quite small but continue to grow, helped by funding support form the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2019 we have been able to speed this up by creating some of the benefits listed above.  We rely heavily on volunteers and currently have about 200 units, with 2500 cadets and 800 instructors from Thurso to Plymouth, this also include variations on the standard approach including Emergency Servcies Cadets and Youth Volunteer Scheme in Scotland. With its new structure in place the collaborative approach supported by NFCC is now ideally placed to drive Fire Cadets forward and enable it to be recognised alongside other key uniformed youth organisations.