PCSO Stephen Huxtable is the first police and fire community support officer in Bideford, acting as a retained firefighter while walking the beat.

PCSO Stephen Huxtable has been a familiar face walking the beat in Bideford for years - but at the bleep of a pager, he swiftly swaps his police hat for a fireman's uniform.

PCSO Huxtable is Bideford's first police and fire community support officer - a role which sees him act as a retained fire-fighter while at work.

Although he's only been in the role for three months, PCSO Huxtable, who has been in the police for 15 years, said he had already attended around 10 shouts.

He said: "The hardest part is having to run up the hill to the fire station.

"I've only had one big fire, which was the one in Bridgeland Street.

"Even though I didn't have my breathing apparatus training so I couldn't go in, it was surprising how much I could do at the scene."

PCSO Huxtable said the two roles pretty much went hand-in-hand, and had helped the fire service overcome difficulty in recruiting retained firefighters to cover the daytime shifts.

He said: "I visited the property of an elderly lady for a fire safety visit and found piles of begging letters, which ties in with our Operation Jessica, working against mail scammers.

"And on the other hand, I've gone to visit someone as a PCSO and saw their smoke detector wasn't working."

The voluntary role is part of a two-year pilot scheme by Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, which has drawn national interest.

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