GREATER Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has praised firefighters for "stepping forward" to take on extra vital roles during the coronavirus crisis.

Last week a joint agency agreement was made for firefighters to deliver food and medicines, drive ambulances and assist with retrieving dead bodies in the event of mass casualties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Firefighters will continue responding to emergencies but they will now be able to provide additional services specifically related to the virus.

The extra work will initially be in place for two months but can be extended or shortened depending on demand.

Leigh Journal:

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. Picture: GMCA

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Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “I want to thank our firefighters in Greater Manchester for stepping forward to help people in this time of national crisis.

"They are a trusted presence in all of our communities and I know their work will bring a lot of reassurance to people at this worrying time.

“I have been in discussion with colleagues in the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and I would like to thank them for reaching this national agreement.

"It will add much-needed capacity to the work of our local councils and voluntary partners as we build a support system for people at risk across our city region.

“The details of how this will work in Greater Manchester will now be agreed through the Local Resilience Forum and through conversations with local partners including the FBU, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and North West Ambulance Service.”

The organisations will meet weekly to discuss where they can help in terms of requests from local resilience forums, and firefighters and other personnel will be given any necessary training and the appropriate personal protective equipment.

GMFRS Chief Fire Officer Jim Wallace said: “We are doing everything we can at GMFRS to protect communities across Greater Manchester as well our frontline colleagues during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"With the support of the mayor, Greater Manchester firefighters, support staff and the FBU, we will continue to support our local communities through this very challenging time.”