YOUNG carers in Swindon have been putting out fires, cutting people out of cars and abseiling down buldings as they see what it is like to be a firefighter.

A group of 20 youngsters, aged from 12 to 16, all members of the Swindon Young Carers’ support group, have spent the week with the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service to experience a basic fire and rescue training course.

Known as Salamander, the programme encourages participants to work as a team, while building up confidence and self-esteem.

The course is held at Drove Road fire station and yesterday the group put on a display of their new-found skills for family, friends and senior Fire and Rescue Service officers.

Ben Tylery, 14, of Pinehurst, said: “This is the second year I have had the pleasure to experience this great course.

“The course enables you to gain confidence and I have also made a lot of friends.

“We are all carers so it is good to be given a break from looking after family members.”

Michael Hunkin, 12, of North Swindon said: “It was a really good week, I was able to conquer a lot of my fears.

“I think the abseiling was the best part of the week.”

Watch Manager Mark Evans, who runs the course, said previous Salamanders for the Young Carers had been very successful, with 70 young people benefiting over the past four years.

He said: “The programme is usually aimed at young people who need a steer in life, and we use the sessions to highlight the consequences of certain behaviours.

“With this group, we focus on self-esteem and teamwork, allowing the young people to learn new skills and then work with others to achieve their aims.

“It is also an opportunity for them to focus on themselves, rather than the person they care for.”

The young carers would normally spend their time looking after a family member at home.

Many care for a parent or sibling with a physical disability, long-term health problems, learning difficulties, mental health or substance misuse issues.

With much of their time taken up caring, many have little opportunity to do anything else.

Matt Teale, of Swindon Carers Centre, said: “The Salamander project has had a positive impact on many of the young carers over the years.

“Young carers tell us that, by attending Salamander, they make new friends, gain confidence, learn how to get along with others and work as a team.”