A TEENAGER from Dumbarton has risen through the ranks to be crowned with a national award after volunteering with the fire and rescue service.

Isla Overend was awarded Young Firefighter of the Year in 2018 and 2019 after working as part of the newly launched Youth Volunteer Scheme (YVS) with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

She said: “I have no doubt in my mind that had I not been part of this scheme, I wouldn’t have had the confidence, experiences, determination, skills and knowledge to choose what is thought of as a leap of faith – especially as my guidance teacher told me I was capable of more when I told her I was leaving school.”

Isla rose quickly through the ranks in her unit to become a watch commander – and now has a SFRS support job, while continuing her higher education studies for a degree in health science.

She has even found herself rubbing shoulders with HRH the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.

The 16-year-old is part of the YVS scheme in Dumbarton – one of four community fire stations in Scotland where the project is already operational.

It is open to teenagers aged between 12 and 18 and is developed around a three-phase programme, designed to deepen and broaden knowledge, skills, competence and confidence.

Isla was one of more than 80 young people from across Scotland who gathered at the service’s national training centre in Cambuslang to mark the formal launch of the initiative by community safety minister Ash Denham and SFRS chief officer Martin Blunden.

Deputy assistant chief officer John Miller, the strategic lead for the YVS, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people across Scotland to develop their skillset and make a valuable contribution to their local communities.

“What we can guarantee is that we will offer as much support and guidance as possible to young people with an interest in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and anyone who participates in this scheme will grow in confidence and be equipped with improved life skills.”

For those interested in participating in the YVS, please contact sfrs.youthengagement@firescotland.gov.uk for more information.