Friday, 4 January 2013

May I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope that you have had a peaceful and restful Christmas. I know a number of staff were working or on call and I hope you had the opportunity to spend some time with your family and friends.

So, what does the New Year hold in store and are you embracing 2013 with a sense of optimism? The Super Blues had a very successful festive period playing some great football smashing in the goals and giving all Chelsea fans renewed hope for the second half of the season.

Then, how quickly hopes are dashed with the wheels coming off just two days into the New Year – some people couldn’t wait to send me a text message having a little gloat and I also got a call from our previous Chairman, Ted Kemble who is a QPR fan (the only one in Sussex).

That was Wednesday and today the sun is out, so onwards and upwards or in the words of that most inspirational of galactic warriors Buzz Lightyear, ‘To Infinity and beyond’.

I’m looking forward to the Chinese New Year which is only a few weeks away and where we shall welcome the Year of the Snake; people born in that year are said to be keen and cunning, intelligent and wise, great mediators and good at doing business. I hope all of that is true as I was born in a previous Year of the Snake, but you can’t believe everything you read!

This is the year that the Shard opens to the public and with a Royal baby due in July we can expect to see street parties all over the country, as we enjoy a glorious summer and lots of fantastic sporting events to look forward to. We have also got the budget on 20th March which may temper some of the fun. Along with the economic outlook, I expect the British weather will be a dominant feature in the year ahead.

We have just endured the second wettest year since records began and ESFRS has been pretty busy over the past two weeks responding to a number of flooding incidents and being involved in making preparations for our response to predicted wide scale flooding. The Patcham area of Brighton and some parts of Lewes still are at risk as ground water levels rise, although thankfully the earlier predictions of flooding across the county and City did not materialise. At one point over Christmas it looked like we could get a repeat of the horrendous flooding of 2000, with a combination of high groundwater levels, south westerly gales and spring tides, but luck was on our side. Let’s hope this continues and that later this year, the jet stream stays to the north of the UK and we can enjoy a Mediterranean summer for a change.

My Week

  • I have managed to visit a number of fire stations and catch up with the duty crews; it was interesting on Christmas morning to see what was cooking and the meals included a full turkey Christmas dinner, what was described as 'the world's biggest fry-up', smoked salmon sandwiches, a rib of beef with roast potatoes and veg, cold meats and chips, and bacon sandwiches followed by sausage rolls and salad.
  • Along with the flooding briefings, I have been preparing for a meeting next week with the Fire Authority after trying to understand the grant settlement figures we received from Government just before Christmas (thanks!). Over the next few days we need to have proposals for the Fire Authority as they have to settle the budget in four weeks’ time and also have to agree whether they will raise Council Tax. The picture going forward still looks very challenging and the Fire Authority will have to make some extremely difficult decisions.

Firefighters have been busy over the past two weeks and on Christmas morning crews from Hastings carried out a great rescue when they pulled a female casualty from the sea. These were very difficult conditions as the casualty had got swept out to sea after appearing to have been caught by a wave when walking along the beach. A co-ordinated rescue operation was carried out including the Coastguard and RNLI with the Mobilising &Communications Centre, who sent acrews from Bohemia Road supported by the Technical Rescue Unit from Battle. Firefighters managed to rescue the female from the water and then carried out resuscitation before the casualty was transferred to hospital. Sadly, despite the very best efforts of firefighters, paramedics and hospital staff, the injuries suffered were extremely severe and the woman did not survive.

Sad news to hear that Tony Greig a former England cricket captain and a stalwart of the Sussex Cricket Team in the 1970s passed away on 29th December at his home in Sydney. A real personality in the game, I can remember seeing him running into bowl with his trade mark neckerchief fluttering in the wind. Tony Greig had left an indelible mark on the game after teaming up with Kerry Packer to bring the game into the modern era. Another cricket personality Christopher Martin Jenkins, known to all as CMJ, also passed away on New Year's Day; listening to the cricket commentary will not be the same without the dulcet tones of CMJ.

Next Tuesday will be the 10th anniversary of the tragic fire in Crowborough that cost the lives of Alex and Philip Kent. Over that ten years I have been enormously impressed and humbled by the manner in which Richard and Janet Kent have shown tremendous dignity and courage in having to cope with the loss of their two wonderful sons. Richard and Janet have become truly fantastic ambassadors for the Service and have championed the cause of domestic sprinklers with their only wish being to prevent any other families having to endure the pain and heartache they have experienced. Alex and Philip will be very much in my thoughts over the next few days, and we should also be thinking of Richard and Janet, two of the warmest and courageous people it has been my privilege to know.