Fire com­mis­sioner’s blaze of glory

Bri­gade chief steps down from role af­ter 40 years

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Lois Swin­ner­ton lois.swin­ner­ton@trin­i­tymir­

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

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