THE county’s fire service has been a victim of its own success to a certain extent. Its prevention campaigns, safety advice and general work in the community have led to a drop in emergency calls relating to fires.

But over the past 18 months it has been called upon more and more to help the other emergency services, particularly South Central Ambulance Service, more stretched than itself.

The quick response times of fire crews has led to them co-responding with SCAS, and firefighters are being trained in trauma care and expected to deal with cardiac arrests.

As SCAS response times have worsened, of course, the fire service is more frequently first on the scene and in 2016/17 attended 1,736 co-responder incidents.

Its responsibilities have increased in recent months, putting more strain on crews and, in particular, on-call firefighters.

At the beginning of this year it took on NHS patient transport for SCAS and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group – which transports on average 88 patients each day. The Oxford Times has now learned that following a review this will continue until at least the end of the year before a comprehensive review weighing up benefits to the taxpayer.

In May, training began for crews to help SCAS gain entry to properties in medical emergencies – again because they were more likely to get there first and also to be able to enter the property and secure it.

In the same month the body recovery service – for the county council’s coroner – was handed over to the fire service, which now has to send crews to every sudden death in Oxfordshire.

Figures are not yet available for the first few months of that particular responsibility but one would imagine it takes up a fair bit of time and man hours.

Fire Brigades Union secretary Mark Ames warned it was affecting mental wellbeing and that firefighters did not sign up to collect dead bodies.

All of the above are extra duties bestowed on the fire service in the past year.

It was only a matter of time before the effects were felt somewhere and it is ‘community safety’ which is being looked at as part of a number of ‘new models’.

However it is dressed up, the community is being asked to become more resilient and, in particular, key volunteers could play a role in keeping people safe.

Some may argue roles such as social care home visits and campaigns against doorstep crime should never have been given to the fire service in the first place.

But they were, and they have been carried out admirably by firefighters and now it seems they will not be.

The fire service in this county should be celebrated but perhaps too much is now being asked of it.