Date: 30th March, 2016
Thursday 31 March will mark the end of an era in Wiltshire, as the county’s Fire & Rescue Service prepares to combine with its neighbour in Dorset.
It was on 1 April 1948 that the then Wiltshire Fire Brigade first came into existence, together with 147 other County Council and County Borough run brigades that were formed by the Fire Services Act 1947.
Now, 68 years later, a new journey will begin with the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service coming into being on 1 April 2016.
The decision to explore bringing together the two counties into one Service was taken in December 2013, and a huge amount of work has been undertaken since that time, with the formal decision to combine being made by both Fire Authorities in November 2014.
The new Service will have its headquarters in Salisbury, with offices within the Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre, although area offices will be maintained at the former HQ sites in Potterne, near Devizes, and Poundbury, Dorchester.
A combined Service Control Centre – handling 999 calls for both counties – opened at Potterne in August 2015, and Darran Gunter was appointed as Chief Fire Officer (Designate) for the new Service in February 2015.
For Wiltshire’s 24 fire stations, the change will only be publicly apparent by the new name and badge on vehicles and new signage on the buildings.
As well as being the end of Wiltshire FRS as a standalone organisation, the combination will also see significant change for Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones, who is retiring from the Service after a 37 year career.
He joined Wiltshire FRS as a probationer firefighter in Salisbury in 1979 and has served his whole career in the county, making him one of very few Chief Fire Officers to rise up through the ranks in the one Service.
Mr Routh-Jones says that 31 March will be bittersweet: “I am immensely proud of my staff for embracing the challenge and bringing us to the cusp of a new Service in less than two and a half years. We have done everything possible to secure the high level of emergency response, prevention activity and fire safety work that local people rightly expect from us. Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service has been proud to protect local communities for 68 years, and that exemplary support will continue with the new organisation”
He added: “While I am obviously sad that my time as Chief Fire Officer is ending, it has been a great privilege to be at the helm of this fantastic organisation for the last five years. My very best wishes go to everyone within the new Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, and my grateful thanks go to everyone who has supported me throughout my career. It really has been an honour to serve the communities of Wiltshire and Swindon.”