Shropshire’s Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond has announced his retirement after a distinguished 33 year career in the Fire and Rescue Service.
He has led Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to become one of the best run brigades in the UK despite being one of the smallest and heavily underfunded – while reducing the annual cost of the service by over £3 million.
He streamlined the brigade while maintaining public safety at the same time as giving the Service’s 450 firefighters the best state of the art firefighting equipment making them better protected with modern fire kit, breathing apparatus and tactical radios. A new fleet of fire appliances has also been introduced.
Fire Authority chairman, Councillor Stuart West, said that Paul had been an “inspirational” leader of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
“Paul has been the sort of Chief every Fire Authority Chair would wish for. He has developed an excellent relationship with all Fire Authority members and delivered a high quality fire and rescue service that the people of our area demand.
“He has dealt with a massive cut in our government grant while delivering a huge range of improvements that will keep us as one of the best fire services in the country. We shall all miss him but wish him well for the future,” added Councillor West.
Shropshire Council leader, Councillor Keith Barrow said: “Paul Raymond is a much respected, highly dedicated and professional Chief Fire Officer. Throughout his long and distinguished career, Paul has made a significant contribution in developing one of the highest performing Fire and Rescue Services in the country.
We are very proud of what Paul and all his staff have achieved over years and I would like to join with my colleagues in wishing him a much deserved, long and happy retirement.
Telford & Wrekin Council leader Kuldip Sahota said: “I would like to congratulate Paul on his retirement and thank him for his fantastic leadership of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
“He has enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the fire service and leaves behind him an excellently run service that has been significantly streamlined.”
Paul Raymond is one of a very few to have joined the service as a retained firefighter - while working as a hotel manager in Herefordshire in 1980 - who has risen through the ranks to become Shropshire’s Deputy Chief in 2005 and then Chief Fire Officer in 2009.
Shropshire firefighters are now better trained and equipped to deal with an increase in incidents they now have to attend such as floods, water rescues, road traffic collisions and animal rescues, he said.
County fire stations are now maintained to a good standard and fire-fighters attend 85 per cent of 999 calls within 15 minutes. After the cancelling of the regional control project, a new command and control system has also been introduced at the newly refurbished Shrewsbury fire HQ.
But the “biggest difference” that Paul has seen in his career was in community fire safety where firefighters and specialist staff have worked to prevent house fires since the 1990s.
“I know that we have prevented hundreds of fire deaths and thousands of disfiguring injuries and many families are alive today that would not be if we had not begun community fire safety all those years ago,” said the fire chief.
“I have had a long and enjoyable career and I am sad to leave this great organisation but I leave it in great shape, with a great team at the top and all my dedicated colleagues able to deliver a fantastic service to the public of Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.
“I am very grateful to all my colleagues who have played a vital part in making Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service one of the best in the UK.
“The service is in a reasonably good place to see it through for the next 10 years,” said Mr Raymond who leaves his post in July 2013 and plans to work with local charities before planning his “next challenge.”
Paul joined Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service in 1998 as Personal Development Manager.
He revealed how firefighters are now so much better protected than when he joined more than three decades ago when “the local milk float” could overtake a fire engine on a steep hill.
“I had a cork helmet painted with yellow gloss paint, a wool coat and a pair of plastic trousers and plastic gloves. We would judge a decent fire by how much our trousers melted and how crispy our ears were. We now have state of the art kit with all over protection and appliances that can get us quickly and safely to the wide range of incidents we now attend.”
The Authority today agreed to begin a process to replace the Chief Fire Officer while also making an additional cut of £100,000 to management costs in the Service.