Firefighters and people from across the West Midlands have been honoured for acts of professionalism, compassion and selflessness at our Achievement and Recognition Awards.
Addressing guests at the event in Birmingham, Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach said the recipients were “inspirational” and had made a genuine difference to people’s lives.
“All are truly worthy of the awards presented to them, which are designed to inspire everyone from every walk of life towards togetherness and acts of of kindness,” said CFO Loach.
“The fire service and public services continue to face a challenging time. Whilst recognition in the light of recent events is rightfully abundant, we also need to recognise that the funding for public services, for a firefighter – including pay – is an investment in safety and not a cost that should be chipped away at.
“We also recognise that we need to evolve and continue to look at ways to make our communities safer, stronger and healthier.
“Our protection, prevention and response activities will continue to develop to meet the ever-changing needs and challenges that we face in order that we continue to be a fire service that is built around community need and that is proud to deliver some of the best services to the community, including the fastest response time to the most serious incidents.
“I congratulate all of the award winners and I am delighted to honour them in this public way.”
Many congratulations to all recipients at our Achievement and Recognition Awards event, taking place tonight in Birmingham 🚒 👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/8rfIwwpbKm
— West Midlands Fire (@WestMidsFire) July 11, 2017
Councillor John Edwards, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “Recent weeks have shown very clearly how much communities depend on firefighters and the support staff who work with them.
“Tonight we have heard some truly remarkable and humbling stories of work and acts carried out not only by our own staff, but those who work for other organisations and by members of the public.
“They should all be very proud of their achievements as, indeed, are we.”
The event took place at St Martin in the Bull Ring church in Birmingham City Centre. Entertainment was provided by the Band of West Midlands Fire Service.
During the evening, a cheque for more than £15,000 was presented to The Fire Fighters Charity – the funds raised from holding charity car washes in March.
Guests included members of our staff who are also volunteers with the United Kingdom International Search and Rescue (UK ISAR) team.
The team can be mobilised at very short notice to disasters around the world, and recently opened its rigorous selection process to support staff. The successful candidates included Hannah Spencer who is based at our HQ and also becomes the first female member of the team.
Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation: Station Commander Lee Baker
Lee Baker is Station Commander at Northfield Community Fire Station, Birmingham. When he was on his summer holiday in Mexico he rescued four swimmers who had got into difficulty.
Lee had been taking an afternoon walk on the beach with his wife when they were approached by a Mexican woman franticly gesturing and asking for help because her family were in difficulty in the water.
Lee’s wife, Sarah, comforted the woman while Lee walked a lady out of the sea who was struggling to stand because of the strong currents and high waves.
Lee then swam out and grabbed a young girl and boy. He swam with the young girl whist pushing the young boy in front of him, battling strength-sapping high waves and a strong undercurrent.
When closer to the shore he was thrown a rescue float. Lee towed the young girl in until others took her, then went back to the boy to pull him in as well. Lee put the girl in the recovery position and made sure she was comfortable.
In all, Lee helped to rescue four people. His actions are testimony to his courage and selflessness in the face of extremely arduous conditions. The training given by West Midlands Fire Service means officers are highly trained to deal with emergency situations, even when they are off duty.
Chief Fire Officer’s Meritorious Action Award: Craig Newis
Craig works in the Payrolls and Pensions Section at West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters. It was one evening last year, when he was out for a drink with friends, that he encountered a fight in which a man was slashing out at people with a craft knife.
One man who was injured suffered extreme blood loss and only survived thanks to the quick thinking of Craig, who stemmed the bleeding until he was able to pass the care of the casualty to paramedics.
Only a couple of weeks earlier, Craig had attended a first aid course run by West Midlands Fire Service. It was the knowledge gained from this course that gave him the confidence to step forward, despite the chaotic scene, to save the life of a complete stranger.
Doctors later praised Craig’s actions and paramedics said the casualty would have otherwise bled to death.
Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation Award: Firefighter Timothy Taylor
Chief Fire Officer’s Meritorious Action Award: Dr Sarah Annable
In February of this year the country was subject to ‘Storm Doris’. At lunchtime on 23 February, in Wolverhampton town centre, a large piece of debris from a shopping centre roof became dislodged and plummeted to the ground, striking a young woman who was walking with a friend.
Off-duty Firefighter Timothy Taylor, of Fallings Park Community Fire Station, was in the area and immediately went to help the victim.
Shortly afterwards the entire high street was closed, because of the danger of other falling debris. Despite the persisting danger, and unaware of where the debris had come from, Timothy still went to woman’s aid.
He was quickly joined at the scene by Dr Sarah Annable. Together they administered CPR and also tended the victim’s severe head injury.
Timothy and Sarah were working in an extremely public and traumatic environment. Sadly, in spite of their professionalism and determination, they were unable to save the woman’s life.
Chief Fire Officer’s Community Fire Safety Award: Fire Engineer Dr Richard Walker
Dr Walker is a member of our Fire Safety team, widely recognised as an expert in his field. He has been instrumental in leading academic studies on which West Midlands Fire Service bases its 5-minute attendance standard for serious incidents threatening life or property.
Richard is an asset to West Midlands Fire Service and continues to lead our Fire Engineers in support of our business protection work whilst also delivering income generation.
Chief Fire Officer’s Appreciation Award: Luke Bennett
On the evening of 7 September 2016, firefighters based at Sheldon Community Fire Station were mobilised to a kitchen fire in Yardley, Birmingham.
The crews were met by 13-year-old Luke and his sister, who were standing outside the property. Luke explained in an extremely calm manner where the fire was and exactly what actions he had taken.
Luke had been making toast when he suddenly smelled burning. He saw black smoke and flames coming from the toaster. The fire was starting to burn a cupboard and spread up a wall.
He immediately grabbed a fire blanket from the wall and placed it over the toaster, which meant he was able to switch off the toaster and pull out the plug.
As he shouted to his sister to raise the alarm, the smoke alarms also started to go off. They made their way out of the house to safety.
Luke made sure the kitchen door was closed to contain the fire and, once outside, he dialled 999.
Luke had researched and made his family aware of how they should respond should they ever have a fire in the house and has had their planned escape route attached to their fridge.
He was shocked when he went back into the house and saw the effects of the fire and heat. Luke’s quick actions ensured that the fire did not spread throughout the house.
Chief Fire Officer’s Appreciation Award: Lisa Kehler
In the early hours of Tuesday 1 November 2016 a crew from Fallings Park Community Fire Station were mobilised to a road traffic collision where a vehicle had hit a road traffic island and come to rest on it.
The incident involved two casualties, one of whom was already out of the vehicle with multiple injuries and being attended to by the ambulance service. The second was still in the driver’s seat.
As firefighters assessed the scene, they became aware of a third person in the vehicle.This was Lisa, a paediatric nurse who had just finished her shift at New Cross Hospital, and had been on her way home in a taxi.
When she saw the collision scene she stopped the taxi and went to see if she could assist. It became apparent that the casualty in the driver’s seat was unconscious and unresponsive. Lisa got into the back seat and, using her medical skills, kept open the driver’s airway using a ‘jaw thrust’.
So that the ambulance service could get better access to the driver, of the vehicle hydraulic cutting equipment was used to remove the roof of the vehicle.
Throughout the operation to remove the roof by fire service personnel Lisa remained calm and composed inside the vehicle maintaining the airway of the casualty before care could be handed over to the ambulance crew.
Chief Fire Officer’s Appreciation Award: William Allen, Anniece Ahmed and Howard Richards.
In the early hours of Sunday 24 July 2016, Howard Richards was at home when he heard a child crying. He went outside and saw flames coming from the upstairs window of a house opposite.
He ran across and onto the driveway of the property where he was met with a chaotic and frantic scene.
Two people from the house, in a distressed state, were shouting that two members of their family were trapped inside.
Fellow neighbour Anniece Ahmed soon joined Howard. They could see an adult straddled across the window ledge of the first floor front bedroom.
Anniece initially ran into the house, up the stairs to the first floor. He was confronted by a severe fire on the landing, but extreme heat and smoke forced him to go outside again.
Howard had clambered to the top of a pile of bricks on the drive and managed to grab hold of the neighbour’s leg. He and Anniece pulled their neighbour from the building.
William Allen was in bed at the time and woke to the smell of smoke coming through his open bedroom window.
He then heard loud knocks on his front door and was confronted by his neighbour, frantically screaming that her son was trapped inside the burning house.
William quickly went next door and then proceeded to enter the property three times to try to find the child.
Eventually, the child appeared at the window and Howard managed to grab and pull him to safety.
Chief Fire Officer’s Appreciation Award: Karen Hatfield
On the afternoon of 12 May, Billesley firefighters were mobilised to a road traffic collision on the Stratford Road in Hall Green, Birmingham, involving two cars.
One of the drivers was trapped by their injuries and was being assessed by Karen, a third year student nurse at Birmingham City University, who had called 999 and then gone to help.
Karen was able to give the fire crews vital information about how the collision had occurred and the actions she had taken.
Cutting gear needed to be used to release the casualty. Karen remained in the vehicle and continued to give medical assistance and to help keep the casualty still and reassured throughout the extrication.
Chief Fire Officer’s Appreciation Award: Poppy Tonkinson
On the afternoon of Thursday 3 November 2016, Poppy was on her way home from college when she saw an elderly lady who had collapsed in the door way to a block of flats and was crying out for help.
The lady managed to tell Poppy that she had fallen in her flat and that her chip pan in her kitchen had caught fire.
With the help of another person, Poppy helped the lady to sit on a chair. She then went inside the flat and carried the burning chip pan outside, then dialled 999 and activated the lady’s Telecare pendant.
Poppy drew on her skills and knowledge from her time in the Scout movement. At the time she was an Explorer Scout and is currently waiting to train as a Young Leader.
Chief Fire Officer’s Recognition Award: Firefighter Adrian Spencer
Adrian is based at Highgate Community Fire Station. He is a committed firefighter who demonstrates an exceptional skill and ability to work with vulnerable people, supporting them to reduce the risk of fire in their homes and consistently demonstrating a high level of commitment.
Following a recent visit of a cross-sector group of managers, who observed a Safe and Well visit by Adrian, a senior clinical commissioning officer commented on his high level of emotional intelligence. Adrian was able to engage and give assistant to a person with mental health issues and posing a serious risk to themselves and others because of hoarding.
Adrian is a vulnerable person’s officer (VPO), which is a voluntary role for which staff receive extra training to work with some of the most vulnerable people in the West Midlands. VPOs do most of this work in their own time, demonstrating the level of personal commitment and sacrifice people like Adrian make on a daily basis to make our communities safer, stronger and healthier.
Adrian works with homeless people around the city, as a voluntary prison mentor supporting prisoners to integrate back into the community and runs a school fire club. He is also a member of the West Midlands Fire Service Deaf Team and is currently studying for his British Sign Language Level 2 qualification.
Chief Fire Officer’s Recognition Award: Firefighter Brendan Houston
Brendan is based at Ladywood Community Fire Station, from where crews responded to a house fire on 27 December 2016.
Brendan noticed that damage to the property had been minimised, thanks to fire doors fitted throughout. He immediately spotted the value of social media to show the aftermath of a fire and the value of closed doors in preventing fire spread.
He filmed a short video as he walked through the house, giving a clear commentary as he showed the areas affected and unaffected by the fire.
The video was posted on his station’s Twitter account and subsequently watched tens of thousands of times, and retweeted by more than 1,000 people.
On the West Midlands Fire Service Facebook page it was watched more than 81,000 times and shared more than a thousand times.
Interest was also shown in the video as a fire safety educational tool from fire and rescue services across the country.
Chief Fire Officer’s Recognition Awards: Watch Commander Mitchell Lee, Firefighter Robert Turner, Firefighter Michael Bailey, Michael Hough and Ryan Dean.
Mitchell, Robert and Fire Cadet Trainee Instructor Ryan are all heavily involved with Bloxwich Fire Cadets.
Bloxwich is a low socio-economic area, recognised by Walsall Local Authority as a deprived area with limited youth engagement activity.
Mitchell and Robert seized the opportunity to deliver fire cadet programmes and Ryan was one of the young people who attended and gone on to become a lead fire cadet.
They are all also supporting the Emergency Services Cadet pilot programme for 8 to 11-year-olds, in partnership with West Midlands Police.
Michael has been involved with the Teamworx programme in our Black Country South Command Area. It is a tri-service partnership involving the Fire Service, West Midlands Police and Sandwell Youth Services.
Children are taught about the importance and consequences of their actions, working and communicating as a team, showing understanding and empathy, and the importance of making decisions and the impact on others.
The children and young people with whom Michael is working have identified the instructors are inspirational, ensuring that the sessions are engaging and a source of valuable information.
Michael Hough has been working with children and young people for more than five years, latterly as the instructor in charge of Wolverhampton Fire Cadets.
He not only works with these young people in achieving and understanding social skills, but also dedicated extra time to support them in achieving qualifications through International Fire Engineers (IFE).
The group, under his guidance, have developed partnership working and are supporting local food bank collections and distribution. He makes use of this opportunity to deliver information about Safe and Well viists and the WMFS community membership scheme.
Chief Fire Officer’s Recognition Awards: Station Commander Russ Gauden, Watch Commanders Andrew Clay, Tony Bucknall and Richie Moore.
Three West Midlands councils have commissioned West Midlands Fire Service to respond to non-emergency calls, 24/7, as part of their Telecare/falls response services.
The schemes help vulnerable people, including the elderly and those with diabilities, to remain independent for longer. It offers a range of sensors and detectors within the home, including smoke and flood alarms, temperature control sensors and trip and fall detectors, plus pendant alarms which they can use to call for help.
If a service user has had a fall, but isn’t hurt, WMFS firefighters attend in a Brigade Response Vehicle. Emergency calls continue to be responded to by the ambulance, police or fire service as always, but barely 10% of non-emergency falls response calls have needed an ambulance.
As well as checking on the individual, getting them back on their feet, into bed or onto a chair, firefighters also carry out a Safe and Well check. These include advice and guidance about fire safety and improving health and wellbeing.
Russ, Tony, Andrew and Richie have all acted as champions and have had a vital role in embedding this activity into our firefighters’ work.
They have also been integral in educating our staff not only about the financial benefits of the work, but those arising from public sector organisations working together to improve services to our communities and alleviating pressure on the NHS.
Chief Fire Officer’s Recognition Awards: Station Commander David Newman and Watch Commander Robert Coles.
Following a conference hosted by Station Commander Newman on behalf of the Birmingham Adult Safeguarding Board, he was approached by the Director of the West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network to reinvigorate West Midlands Fire Service’s involvement with the group.
It is an area of work that enables us to engage with many of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
Watch Commander Coles very quickly joined David in this work and together they focused on gaining knowledge of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.
They were asked to speak at a world anti-slavery conference attended by 250 partners and also invited to speak at a major public health event.
Fire and rescue services from across the country are now turning to West Midlands Fire Service’s work in this field as a model of good practice.