Fire commissioner’s blaze of glory
Brigade chief steps down from role after 40 years
HE has spent 40 years of his life serving the capital as part of the London Fire Brigade, but as London welcomes in 2017 the capital waves goodbye to London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson.
Mr Dobson is stepping down to make way for Dany Cotton, who will become the first female commissioner in London.
Ron joined the London Fire Brigade in 1979, serving at Ealing, Peckham, Brixton, and Silvertown fire stations before rising through the ranks to the role of commissioner in 2007.
Since joining he has been awarded with the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in 2005 and was awarded the CBE in 2011.
Looking back, Mr Dobson says he has experienced some incredible moments.
He said: “The brigade’s role in delivering the hugely successful London Olympic Games, as well as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, in 2012 is hard to surpass as a career high.”
Mr Dobson, 57, is leaving the fire brigade after its 150th anniversary year, which he says is an honour, adding: “Celebrating our 150th anniversary throughout 2016 has been a privilege and one of many highlights of my 37 years at the brigade.
“I am finishing my career on a high, secure in the knowledge that your new commissioner, Dany Cotton, will steer the brigade through all the changes and challenges ahead.”
During his 10 years as commissioner, despite a reduction in budget, there has been a 37% decrease in the number of fires.
The number of deaths from fires has also been declining over the past 10 years.
He said: “The nature of the job means that sometimes you have to make difficult and unpopular decisions. Although there have been dark times, I’m proud of the way we’ve embraced change over the years.
“Attendance times are actually better than they were when I started as commissioner.
“The time for a first fire engine is four seconds quicker and 16 seconds quicker for a second fire engine.”
In 1996, Mr Dobson was one of the first senior officers to arrive at the scene of the Canary Wharf bomb blast, in which two people were killed, and in recent years, following the 2005 London bombings, he has been influential in the fight against terrorism.
One of his final acts was publishing the draft London Safety Plan, which includes proposals to expand the fire brigade’s response to a terror-related incident.
“You can’t be as closely involved in events such as those that occurred on July 7 and not be changed by them” says Ron.
“I know that I am a different person today to the one I was before July 7.
“The role of a firefighter in 2016 is a world away from when our great organisation was born 150 years ago and our plan reflects the varied job we do every day to protect Londoners. We need to plan for the very worst.
“Even though we hope it never happens, we must prepare our firefighters to be part of the response to a terrorist incident.”
Mr Dobson, who lives in Sidcup, Kent, says he is looking forward to seeing how his recent changes will alter the face of the fire brigade in the coming years, but says there is still more to be done.
He said: “The hardest part will be in future looking at the incredible work the London Fire Brigade does and saying ‘they achieved that’ not ‘we achieved that’.
“Looking forward, there are still challenges, such as increasing the diversity of operational firefighters in London. In these nine years we have made some significant progress, but there is more to be done.”
I’m proud of the way we’ve embraced change over the years”
CHANGES: (Clockwise from above) Ron Dobson with his successor, Dany Cotton; Mr Dobson joined the brigade in 1979; pictured with other firefighters; Mr Dobson on the Thames zipwire; with Prince Charles