Fire controlThe Thames Valley Fire Control Service (TVFCS) has been officially opened on by the Fire Minister Mark Francois MP.

The TVFCS, the shared emergency Control centre for Royal Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Services, answers 999 calls and mobilises resources on behalf of the three services to incidents across the Thames Valley. The new facility became fully operational on 23 April this year.

Commenting on the official opening of the facility, Francois said: “I am delighted to formally open this new facility, which is a landmark in combining the best in cutting-edge technology with collaboration between neighbouring fire and rescue authorities to provide a solution that cuts response times, provides a better service, but which also reduces costs.

"People across the Thames Valley should be rightly proud of the excellent work done by their fire and rescue authority in bringing this exciting project to fruition."

The Minister was welcomed to the TVFCS by Fire Authority Members and senior officers from all three counties, before being introduced to members of the programme team.

The Minister was then given a tour of the TVFCS suite by Station Manager Paul Thomas, the officer in charge of the TVFCS. During the tour, the Minister met the duty Control Watch and was provided with a demonstration of the new mobilising system, which pinpoints the precise geographic location of an incident and locates the exact position of every available fire engine and officer via GPS (Global Positioning Systems). This ensures that the quickest available fire engine is sent to an incident - irrespective of whether it is based in Berkshire, Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes - which is helping to improve attendance times.

The Minister also visited the Operational Support Room, which is used to support the Control room in the event of a major incident.

After the tour, the Francois declared the TVFCS officially open by unveiling a plaque alongside Councillor Angus Ross, Chairman of the body that oversees operation of the TVFCS, in front of councillors and staff from the three Thames Valley fire and rescue services.

Councillor Ross said: “I know I speak for my colleagues across the three Fire Authorities in the Thames Valley when I say that sharing resources is absolutely essential in the process of continuing to deliver excellent services for the public we serve, whilst reducing costs in a very challenging financial climate.

“The TVFCS is a really excellent example of that approach in practice and I am delighted to be here today, at its official opening. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who works in the Control room for the unstinting professionalism and dedication they have shown.

“I would also like to thank and pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in the project to establish the TVFCS - Fire Authority Members, fire and rescue service staff, and trade union officials - it really was a really excellent team effort. I am pleased to have been involved in this facility’s development. It is now a real asset for the safety of residents and businesses in the Thames Valley.”