Firefighters, support staff and members of the public from across the West Midlands were honoured at at WMFS Aspire 2012 Awards.

At the ceremony at the ICC in Birmingham last weekend [12 Oct] awards were given out across 10 categories in front of a crowd of over 500 guests including Fire Health and Safety Manager Steve Hanson from lead sponsors Marks & Spencers.

Firefighter Paul McCarron, of Sutton Coldfield fire station's Blue Watch, was named Hero of the Year, along with his friend Richard Ross, for their remarkable efforts in leading nearly 40 people to safety from a burning apartment block while they were on holiday in Majorca.

Following an online public vote, this year's Fire Station of the Year title went to Stourbridge, in recognition of impressive team effort in improving local communities' safety.

The ICC audience heard details of youth initiatives, road and home safety work, and efforts to reduce arson and anti-social behaviour which clinched the title for the station's firefighters and staff. 

Here's a look at all the award winners and the fantastic work which earned their well-deserved honours:

wmfs1Outstanding Contribution to West Midlands Fire Service Award: Watch Commander Gavin Pardoe, Dudley Fire Station, Purple Watch  

Watch Commander Gavin Pardoe has been instrumental in the success of the Blazers project in the Dudley Command Area, a project that seeks to educate young children on the benefits of exercise and healthy eating. Using his own time to discuss this project with the local authority, the Blazers project was created as a trial, with limited funding. Gavin has now managed to identify additional funding through the local authority to secure continued activity within local schools. The project has been running successfully for over 12 months and is a testament to Gavin's perseverance. With the help of colleagues from his Watch and other volunteers, there is now a waiting list of schools wanting to be a part of the Blazers project.

Partnership Achievement Award: Coventry Operations Command   wmfs2 

Innovative and ground-breaking programmes are commonplace within Coventry Operations Command. The projects set up to help vulnerable people are numerous, but each receives the same professional and dedicated approach. Coventry Command stand out from the crowd due to their vision, commitment and belief in the need to tackle the root causes of ill health and health inequalities. As they are trusted and respected, the team actively engage with hard-to-reach communities. Coventry Command are a key and valued partner at the heart of decision making in the City of Coventry. They have also been integral in consultations that have taken place with the New York Fire Department and a United States health delegation whose members were bowled over by the incredible range and quality of work they saw.
wmfs3Operational Excellence Award: Sheldon Fire Station, White Watch (Watch Commander Mark Engers, Firefighters Leigh Kelly, Richard Simmonds and Vincent Marshall, former Firefighter Gareth Bond)  

This crew's fast thinking, first aid and trauma management skills undoubtedly saved the life of an 18-month-old child. The crew were called to an incident with persons reported in a property, where the gas burners of a cooker had been switched on but not ignited. With the gas supply isolated and an adult female casualty being treated by paramedics, the crew (with the assistance of a police officer), rescued the child who was found to be in a critical condition. The crew set about stabilising and treating the child and, in collaboration with a paramedic, the Watch Commander made the decision to transport the child immediately to the nearest hospital and continue the treatment on the fire appliance en route, while the paramedic remained at the scene and continued to administer first aid to the female casualty. The hospital said that the child was unlikely to have survived without the crew's actions.

Community Engagement Award: Brigade-wide Aurora team  

Although this youth intervention project has only been running for a short time, the positive benefits to the young people taking part in the course have been endless. Dealing with disenchanted young people can be difficult. However, this team's willingness to see the best in young people and not dwell on the past helps to break down barriers and gives the young people the platform to start afresh. The energy the team members commit to each course, to ensure continued progress for participants, is clear to see. The positive outcomes of the team's work is clearly visible, not only in terms of the young people who have, for example, gone back into full-time education, gained apprenticeships, worked as volunteers at Safeside and become mentors to others attending the course, but also through the measurable impact that the course has had on the young people's families.

Volunteer Award: Coventry community volunteers Jack King and Carol Bolton  wmfs4 

It takes a certain type of person to be a volunteer - someone who is willing to give up their time to support the organisation and the communities we serve. Two such people who certainly go above and beyond their role are Jack King and Carol Bolton. Not just content with fulfilling their duties as volunteers, they endeavour to analyse and improve upon current working practices. They have identified risk and vulnerability within Coventry areas that are not regularly targeted by our personnel, and might otherwise be overlooked. Using strategies to provide a visible presence, information, support and advice is relayed to members of those communities that are at risk. The vulnerable are identified and directed to access services from either the bridge or one of our partners. The approach used and the responsibility the volunteers have taken on has allowed them to adopt a joined-up approach and see the outcomes of their endeavours.

wmfs5Innovation and Creativity Award: Watch Commanders Darren North and Peter Luckin of Operational Training Support, the WMFS Academy  

Watch Commanders Darren North and Pete Luckin have been key to the First Aid and Trauma Management (FATM) burns project that has taken place between the Academy Trauma Training Team and University Hospital Birmingham - the only project of its kind in the country to improve instructor skills and patient safety and to develop partnership working. The skills learnt have been passed on during training sessions for the benefit of all operational crews in West Midlands Fire Service. The key objective of the project is to develop firefighters' experience in the entire patient pathway, helping hospital  staff understand and appreciate the challenges faced at the incident scene. By identifing best practice for frontline personnel, patient outcomes are improved. This groundbreaking work has attracted national and international interest, and has been quickly adopted by other brigades in the UK and abroad.

wmfs6 Environmental Award: Elaine Debenham of the Safety, Health and Environment team at HQ  

Nominated as one of the new Green Leaders in the West Midlands, Elaine Debenham has single-handedly driven the brigade's environmental progress. This has been achieved through her work in raising the profile of carbon foot printing, energy management and the sustainability elements of corporate social responsibility. Elaine has developed the Carbon Management Plan for the brigade, which resulted in the prestigious award of the Carbon Management Standard. Elaine has also secured accredited environmental awareness training at no cost to the brigade, and worked with external partners on improving facilities for recycling and the provision of photovoltaic panels. She is also researching methods for cleaning up and re-using water run-off from firefighting. The 'switch off' campaigns at stations and at HQ have saved on energy bills, and helped raise awareness of the financial and environmental savings to be made by turning equipment off. Elaine's work with Station Environmental Champions has also resulted in successful biodiversity initiatives being set up, such as beehives and gardens.

wmfs7 Support Section of the Year Award: Quality Assurance and Control Section, the WMFS Academy  

This high-performing team deliver and provide specialist expertise to West Midlands Fire Service employees relating to workplace assessment, quality assurance, standards and vocational qualifications. This team were key to WMFS achieving the coveted 'Investor in People' standard at first attempt - rare for a large organization, and testament to the Quality Assurance and Control Section's commitment and dedication. The team have helped both uniformed and support staff gain over 1,500 qualifications by providing the guidance, support and motivation to ensure people have the support they require. They also work with young people from within the community to support work experience in WMFS, giving them the opportunity to gain a qualification and improve their job prospects.

wmfs8Fire Station of the Year: Stourbridge Community Fire Station  

At Stourbridge, every member of the team plays their part in improving the safety of, and proactively working with, the communities they serve. Following on from a very successful long-term special needs Young Firefighters' Association group, Blue Watch now run shorter-term groups for local school children, which include camping and activity days. Red Watch are the lead for road safety initiatives, identifying interventions and opportunities in the community to support this brigade priority. Blue Watch lead on safety in the home, and help to target resources that prioritise activities for our most vulnerable. Green Watch lead on arson and anti-social behaviour, and proactively identify void and derelict buildings so they can be made safe. White Watch are the lead for children and young people, and are at the forefront of delivering interventions in schools and colleges.

wmfs9Hero of the Year: Firefighter Paul McCarron of Sutton Coldfield Fire Station, Blue Watch and Mr Richard Ross  

Firefighter McCarron was enjoying a family holiday with his wife and a group of friends in Majorca in August. He was relaxing after a swim and a barbecue, when his wife spotted flames shooting from a window on the top floor of an apartment block, near to their hotel, just after 10pm. Paul and his friend, Richard Ross, rushed to the scene and found the six-storey apartment block well alight. Paul found the stairs at the back of the buillding and headed to the top floor, while Richard banged on doors in an attempt to get everyone out. Grabbing a T-shirt from a man on his way up the stairs, Paul used it to protect himself and cover his mouth. On the top floor, where the fire was, the smoke was really thick, down to just a couple of feet off the ground, so he had to crawl. He first located an elderly couple and got them to safety, and then began searching the flats. The door of the apartment which was on fire was open. Paul couldn't get too close because the flames were really hot and the smoke was getting thicker and thicker. They were in pitch darkness, apart from the light from the fire, as the electricity supply had been knocked out.

When Paul thought everyone was out he heard a woman screaming, and managed to get her out and down the stairs just as the local firefighters arrived. The apartment block was occupied with around 200 residents. As well as rescuing one woman from the top floor, Paul led 18 couples to safety. He had help from a couple of local people, but it was Richard who gave him valuable support, following his instructions at all times. He was only able to do what he did because of his extensive training and years of experience as a professional firefighter, which meant he was able to continuously risk assess the situation to ensure that he was not putting other people or himself at even greater risk. As a result of his actions, it is believed that only one resident suffered minor burns to his feet. Everyone else is reported to have returned safely to their homes within three hours of the blaze.

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Posted 17/10/2012 by