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Norfolk Fire Service dive team in much demand

Norfolk Fire Service diving team at work Photo:

For almost a year, firefighters in Norfolk have been developing new skills much in demand across the country.

It is the only fire service in the UK with its own dedicated diving team which has been regularly used by police forces, who ironically have had to give theirs up because of financial pressures.

Norfolk underwater, search and recovery unit

It is almost a year since Norfolk Fire and Rescue service formed its own diving unit. Alan Nicholls is one of them. It was his idea to set up the unit and it has already proved its worth.

"The reality is we are never going to rescue anyone but in order to provide closure for the victims' families, it is a very important function that we are able to provide a recovery team to be on the scene very quickly," he said.

They have already been involved in several such incidents, one of the most significant the recovery from the Broads in Norfolk of a man who had killed his partner before committing suicide by jumping into the water.

Simon Hilton, Firefighter diving

The dive team was set up with the help of a DEFRA grant. It also relies on sponsorship but with money tight, can it hope to survive in what is a challenging financial time for local authorities?

Its immediate future looks secure but what after that?

"We are ok for the next four years." said Assistant Chief Fire Officer Roy Harold.

"We recover our costs when we are called out but obviously every penny counts in the public sector and ultimately it will be the public of Norfolk that decides. Hopefully they will see what a good job we are doing."

In Government circles, there is admiration for the way it was for the firefighters themselves who saw the potental for creating the unit and making it work.

"I have been out with them and it is a fantastic facility," said Fire Minister Brandon Lewis."

"They have seen a niche there, and it has proved a great asset for the Environment Agency, the police and the fire service itself.

"It is a really good example of local people within the fire service seeing an opportunity and delivering on it for local people."