Commendation awards recognise courage, dedication and selflessness

People from across West Sussex have been recognised for outstanding service to their communities, with Chief Fire Officer Commendations presented at an awards ceremony last night.

Award winners at the Chief Fire Officer Commendations ceremony in Chichester
Award winners at the Chief Fire Officer Commendations ceremony in Chichester

Those honoured at The Assembly Rooms in Chichester included members of the public, serving firefighters and those involved in the Shoreham Airshow disaster.

Chief Fire Officer Lee Neale told recipients, dignitaries and invited guests: “It is important to recognise these acts of courage, dedication and selflessness.”

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Four friends from Slindon were awarded Chief Fire Officer Commendation Certificates after saving an elderly lady from a house fire.

Jayne Walker, Laura Lye, Margaret Winn and Moira Richards were playing tennis when they heard cries for help from an upstairs bedroom window and managed to rescue the lady from a fire that took six crews to deal with.

The Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance was named the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS) Partner of the Year for working with firefighters at the most serious incidents when urgent medical help is required. The award was handed to Chief Executive Adrian Bell.

Robin Dobbs was named Volunteer of the Year for his huge commitment to WSFRS safety and prevention work.

Robin, from Pagham, has been a volunteer with the service for three years and last year gave 403 hours of his own time to carry out home safety visits, support events and to drive the information unit. Nothing is ever too much trouble for Rob and he now supports new volunteers as a guide and mentor.

A Bright Start award was presented to retained firefighter Laura Fitch, who joined the on-call team working from Horsham fire station in May last year.

As well as being a valued member of that team, Laura has always been willing to get involved in other activities and played a starring role in our RDS recruitment campaign.

She has also supported the ‘have a go’ days and Firebreak scheme, where WSFRS works with young people who need a helping hand. Laura’s enthusiasm and positive attitude have made a mark from the start of her career.

Crew Manager Holly Beeston was given an Innovation in Community Safety and Wellbeing Award.

With prevention very much at the heart of WSFRS work, Holly decided to offer her skills as a yoga teacher to elderly Horsham residents, who would visit the station when Holly was on duty. Her sessions proved so popular and successful that Holly now gives up her own time to drive from her home in Brighton to Horsham to continue the classes.

Crews from Arundel Fire Station received an award for raising the most money for The Firefighters Charity, a charity that supports firefighters and their families through difficult times.

WSFRS has always been determined to support the charity, which has centres in Cumbria and Devon and a headquarters in Littlehampton, to the best of its ability.

This year, the service received a regional award for its fundraising and Arundel was singled out by the service for raising £800 with its car washes.

Chief Fire Officer Commendation Certificates were also awarded to some of those most closely involved in the Shoreham Airshow tragedy. It was one of the darkest days West Sussex has faced and the awards were given to recognise and thank those who worked so hard on the day and in the following weeks.

Recipients were addressed by West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith, who said: “However much training and preparation one has nothing can prepare you for the actual reality of what happened on the 22nd of August 2015.

“Our fire and rescue service was there within minutes and got on with their jobs. For those brave people the memories of that day will live with them.”

Those recognised included:

• The on-call crew from Worthing, who were parked a few hundred metres away when the crash happened.

• The crew’s Worthing colleagues, who arrived soon after.

• Fire service officers who worked at the scene.

• The Technical Rescue Unit, which spent weeks working at the scene in difficult weather conditions, alongside colleagues from the police and Air Accident Investigation Bureau.

• The Sussex Control Centre staff, who dealt with large numbers of calls on the day while mobilising crews to the scene and responding to calls from other emergencies.

• The resilience and emergencies team, which was this week named the Emergency Planning Society’s Resilience Team of the Year.

• The Trauma After Care Team, made up of WSFRS staff and volunteers, who deliver trauma after care for those they work with.

• British Red Cross volunteers who supported WSFRS teams at the scene.

• Tesco at Holmbush, which was thanked for providing food and drink.

The final award of the evening was presented to college student Ella Collins-Godden, who recorded her own version of Coldplay’s Fix You to raise money for the Shoreham Memorial Fund and donated £500 to the Firefighters Charity.

She was awarded the Firefighters Charity Contributor of the year award.

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