Walking his rare Dutch Herder dog and battling against the sound of wind and passing cars, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s Chris Lowther talks to Political Editor Catherine Levin about the challenges of being a Chief Fire Officer.
Chris joined Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in 1997; he had always wanted to be a firefighter and he has been there ever since. He became Chief in 2017 and, given the high retirement rates of his peers, he is now one of the longer serving chiefs in the country. He also has a key role on the national stage heading up the Operations Committee of the National Fire Chiefs Council.
Reflecting on his tenure as Chief so far, Chris said: “I realised from the beginning that I had to work out what kind of Chief I wanted to be.” He said that he had no intention of putting in for the job when he was ACFO. Tom Capeling was Chris’s predecessor. He told Chris that being Chief was a lonely job. “He was right. You are number one and you’ve got to think so hard because of the impact a decision can make. I didn’t appreciate that before I started.”
Some of that loneliness can be alleviated by having 48 other chief fire officers to turn to. Chris agreed but said that because the turnover of chiefs is so high, this is a risk to the Fire and Rescue Service, particularly in terms of corporate memory. The solution, he said, lies in a change to the pension rules and that is certainly not trivial or at the top of the government’s to do list.
Read the full article on our digital issue, page 71-74.