Today's columnist, James Courtney: Fire service's new chapter

I was pleased to attend the official opening of Parkway fire station last month and a number of things struck me about the day.

The first was the presence of children from Pipworth Community Primary School.

Watching their excitement as they entered our shiny new building for the first time and their interest in the demonstration performed by red watch firefighters was, for me, a timely reminder of the special place the fire service continues to have in the public conscience.

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With all of the financial challenges public services face it is easy to adopt a negative outlook, but our priority will always be the people we serve.

I was also struck once again by the bravery of Joe Bowers, who was rescued from a house fire as a baby 15 years ago.

It was apt that he was chosen to join Clive Betts MP in opening the station.

People often speak about the bravery of the emergency services who respond to the sorts of situations others would run away from and of course it’s true, but Joe displays a different type of courage altogether.

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I could see how much being invited to open one of our newest fire stations meant to Joe and all of his family members.

Lastly, I spoke at the ceremony about the important role our so-called ‘back office’ functions play in supporting our frontline work.

Often people working in non-firefighter roles are an easy target for politicians and the national media.

As a service, throughout the last five years of funding cuts, we have always committed to protecting our frontline, 999 service as far as possible. However, it is appropriate to recognise that, without the expert knowledge of our dedicated support staff, a new facility like Parkway simply would not have taken shape.

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That the station was completed on time and on budget is of huge credit to the professionalism of everyone involved.

The financial pressures the fire and rescue service faces are both well documented and unprecedented.

The official opening of a new facility like Parkway fire station is the best possible physical reminder of the fact that despite the challenges we face we remain absolutely committed to supporting our future.

It marks a fresh new chapter in fire and rescue provision for Sheffield and will continue to contribute towards making South Yorkshire a safer place to live for many years to come.

* James Courtney, Chief Fire Officer