The winners for the Spirit of Fire Awards 2015 have been announced at a star-studded London ceremony hosted by The Fire Fighters Charity and presented by BBC newsreader Nicholas Owen.
The Spirit of Fire Awards honour members of the fire and rescue community and members of the public by recognising acts of astonishing courage and bravery, as well as dedication to The Fire Fighters Charity.
Celebrate the best of FRS partnership working by booking your ticket to the Excellence in Fire and Emergency Awards 2015 at One Great George Street on 4 December: www.fire-magazine.com/fire-event/efe-awards-2015/
Preceded by a Downing Street reception for nominees, hosted by Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the high profile event took place at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel and was attended by a host of celebrities and VIP guests from across the fire and rescue service.
Commenting on the achievements recognised at the awards, Clark said: "I’ve been inspired by the accounts of self-sacrifice and dedication that the winners and nominees of this year’s Spirit of Fire awards have shown, both at individual incidents and in their support for the Fire Fighters Charity."
Highlights of the evening included the heartwarming moment comedian Russell Brand presented Youth Of Courage award winner, and fan, Joe Bowers with his much deserved award. Joe was rescued from a house fire back in 2001, when he was just 18 months old, he suffered life changing burns and spent months recovering in hospital. Overcoming everything from facial reconstruction to muscle transplants with admirable strength and incredible determination, Joe was adopted by Phil and Tracy Bowers. Phil is now a volunteer with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, helping prevent fires like the one which changed Joe’s life forever.
Other presenters on the evening included actors Niamh McGrady, Bhasker Patel, and John Partridge, sports presenter Diana Binks, TV gardener David Domoney and Great British Bake Off contestant Mat Riley. A full list of winners and their reactions are below.
Team of the Year - StrongArm Challenge
• The StrongArm Challenge is a joint venture between Durham and Darlington, and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue teams. On consecutive days in 2014 they swam eight miles in Ullswater, completed a mountain triathlon, and took part in the Total Warrior 10 mile assault course carrying a paraplegic team member before cycling 100 miles home. Fundraising in memory of firefighter Peter Metcalfe, who died at 35 after a brief battle with cancer, the team has raised £60,000 for the Charity and Make a Wish Foundation.
Watch Manager Paul Thompson, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “When our colleague and dear friend Peter Metcalfe tragically lost his life suddenly to stomach cancer, we wanted to create a very special event to keep his spirit alive and raise funds in his memory. Thanks to all the organisational work by people like Carl Stephenson and Peter's brother, Warren, it has been a bigger success than we could have wished for. And winning the Spirit of Fire award is a great honour for everyone involved."
Best Newcomer - Sarah Lewis, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service
• Sarah joined Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service as Service Coordinator in November 2013, with a goal of making it the leading fundraising fire service in the country. A single town centre collection made almost £10,000, helping funds rise by 670% in a year. Royal Berkshire also won an award for its National Car Wash fundraising, moving from £282 in 2013/14 to £15,963 in 2014/15. Sarah also bravely took part in a Spinnaker Tower abseil.
Supporter of the Year - Martin Lown, Herefordshire Fire and Rescue Service
• Martin is the Service Coordinator for Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and regularly pushes his body to physical limits to raise money for The Fire Fighters Charity. He has climbed Kilimanjaro, Mount Everest Base Camp, and Mount Toubkal in North Africa in full fire kit, carrying a specially adapted breathing apparatus set to act as a rucksack. The three mountain ascents alone raised £12,000 and through actively promoting the Charity in all that he does and inspiring others, Martin helped Herefore and Worcester Fire and Rescue raise nearly £90,000 in 2014.
Fire Service of the Year - Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (pictured)
• Despite being a relatively small service, Bedfordshire makes a big contribution to the work of The Fire Fighters Charity. It was placed in the top five fire and rescue services in the UK in terms of income per head for two years running. Despite a reduction in workforce figures, it set an ambitious fundraising target of £70k which it went on to beat, raising around £75k in 2013/14 and again in 2014/15. Paul Fuller, Chief Fire Officer at BFRS, said: "I am honoured that Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service have won Fire Service of the Year. This award is fitting recognition for all the hard work our firefighters and support staff put in every day to ensure we are ready and able to protect the public and reduce risks to their safety. I’d also like to congratulate other nominees from Bedfordshire, our three Firefighters who were nominated for awards for their courage and bravery and our staff working with Cambridgeshire FRS who were nominated for Team of the Year."
Corporate Supporter of the Year - Autoglym
• Autoglym has supported the Charity’s National Car Wash year after year by providing shampoo for all stations. This support equates to £40,000 worth of shampoo each year! Without this generous donation the event would simply not be viable. Thanks to Autoglym’s unstinting support we have been able to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds through this ever popular twice-yearly event.
Beneficiary of Courage - Peter Lau, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service
• Station Manager Peter suffered a life-changing spinal injury after a cycling accident, leaving him in a wheelchair. He spent months recovering in hospital and attended rehabilitation with the Charity. Peter is an inspiration, motivating other patients in their recovery despite several of his own knockbacks. Committed to making a difference, he continues to fundraise for the Charity.
Youth of Courage - Joe Bowers, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service
• Rescued from a house fire back in 2001, Joe suffered terrible burns and spent months in hospital. He has bravely faced everything from facial reconstruction to muscle transplants, before being adopted by Phil and Tracy Bowers. Phil is now a volunteer with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, helping prevent fires like the one which changed Joe’s life forever. A sweet and loving young man, Joe warms the hearts of everyone he meets.
Adult Hero - Gareth Salmon, London
• When Gareth became aware of a fire near his residence, he entered the flat, ignoring the danger to himself in order to save an elderly resident. Finally gaining access after flames forced him to retreat, an explosion blew him out of the door. Not giving up, he re-entered the property and saved the occupant. As he left the premises there was a much larger explosion – fortunately, he came to no harm.
Firefighter of the Year - Joe Thornton and Richard Jordan, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service
• In 2014, Immingham Fire Station’s Green Watch attended a scene where a man was threatening to set fire to himself in a shed. With a strong smell of petrol and smoke, Richard applied cooling techniques and Joe opened the door, only for the man to throw a can of petrol at them and slam the door shut. Without hesitation, Joe forced the door open whilst Richard extinguished and protected them from the threat of ignition to the petrol or themselves, successfully controlling the situation.
Lifetime Achievement Award - Tony Dale
• Tony has been supporting the Charity for an admirable 51 years, first becoming a member in 1963. He has been a Brigade Secretary, Member of the National Council, Company Member, Service Coordinator, Home Visitor and a dedicated fundraiser. During this time, Tony had a quadruple bypass which never slowed him down and he continues to support the Charity despite his health. As one of our most loyal members, Tony is dedicated to helping those in need and his can.
See images of all the winners at https://goo.gl/photos/ssazCkJkEBS3vW3MA