What does the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service do for you?
We want to reflect the communities we serve and are actively seeking to attract and recruit more women and more people from ethnic minorities
When contractor Carillon collapsed, we made national news, as we had an emergency response team ready to act. Fire officers were put on standby to deliver packed lunches to schools in case Carillion’s staff failed to turn up to work. In the end, it wasn’t necessary, but many in the media and the public asked us: why were firefighters involved? Few people realise the extent of the fire service’s work - it’s not all about fires.
We are lucky that in Oxfordshire the Fire and Rescue Service is part of the county council and their invaluable experience in emergencies and solving problems means that they make an important contribution to our planning and response when a crisis arises. There’s also a big clue in the word “rescue” – they are involved in saving and helping people in floods, road accidents and in other situations. But there’s so much more. “Prevention is a massive part of the work of fire service, as it is looking after vulnerable people” explains Chief Fire Officer, Simon Furlong: “We receive very good feedback from the public, but realised that many people don’t know about all the work we do in the local communities. We work closely with our neighbouring fire services and blue light services to deliver the most effective service to the public. We run educational programmes for children across different ages. A huge part of the work of a modern fire service is spent working with those most at risk within our communities and working hard to prevent them suffering harm.”
Simon Furlong took over in April last year and said his priority was to make the fire service more diverse and also future proof it: “We want to reflect the communities we serve and are actively seeking to attract and recruit more women and more people from ethnic minorities.”
Celebrating the past and preparing for the future
In 1842 after the post office and two other buildings in the High St in Oxford were destroyed by fire, there was a call for a better organised fire service, as it was all fragmented (city, county, university and some parishes had their own rudimentary fire engines). Another fire in central Oxford in 1869 claimed two lives and led to another public outcry. The first publicly-owned fire engine and volunteer fire brigade was set up in 1870 with headquarters in New Inn Hall street and then in George St. The first captain was John Augustus Fane, followed by Thomas Green. By 1896, the brigade numbered 60 men and answered 30 calls. The fire service became a professional force in 1940 and continued to expand to serve Oxfordshire. Over the years, the County Council Fire and Rescue Service changed. There are now 25 fire stations across Oxfordshire to respond to a population of over 680,000 residents.
Simon Furlong explains that a modern fire service needs to adapt to societal and technological changes: “We are looking at 2050 and what the fire service needs to do in a world of driverless cars, robots working in homes, drones, artificial intelligence, new forms of energy, which all pose new risks and we are assessing the impact that this will have on our work in keeping communities safe”.
So, what does the fire service do now, apart from putting out fires?
Here are 10 things you may not have realised about your Fire Service:
1-Responds to road, rail, air and water incidents
2-Rescues can involve floods or drownings, trapped people or animals
3-Road safety focuses on drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, raising awareness of drink and driving, speed, driving in the winter or getting distracted by mobile phones and other safety issues
4-The Fire Service runs sessions in schools from Key stage 1 to Six Form and projects like Phoenix - a Fire and Rescue initiative aimed at young people between the ages of 11- 25 to address problems such as low self-esteem, lack of confidence and anti-social behaviour.
5-Community Safety is about protecting the vulnerable, safeguarding, work with travellers and other communities as well as the great work undertaken by our Trading Standards teams (protecting citizens from fraud, scams, faulty products and services)
6-Safe and Well visits – our firefighters and community safety staff assess the home conditions of the most vulnerable to support them to remain independent, provide smoke alarms and give out information for them to get the help they need
7-Advises businesses on fire safety
8-Emergency planning is led by the Fire Service. Teams prepare and respond to various situations that affect residents or impact on local communities and business continuity.
9-There’s a dedicated team dealing with hazardous substances incidents using specialist equipment. This can be toxic leaks or chemical spills or "Any substance or occurrence which has the potential to cause injury, sickness, death or environmental pollution from exposure, inhalation, ingestion or absorption."
10-Works with police forces and other multi-agency partners in major incidents, such as terrorist attacks.