THE chief fire officer for Tyne and Wear has praised the service after announcing his retirement – but also predicted that there are difficult years ahead.
After nearly 34 years’ service, Iain Bathgate is to step down in February.
During his career he has worked at stations all over Tyne and Wear including Tunstall fire station and Sunderland Central.
Reflecting on his time in the service he said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work here and leaving will definitely be a sad occasion as I have enjoyed it all.
“I firmly believe this service is one of the best in the country and this is due to the hard work and commitment of everyone here, all of whom work tirelessly to keep people safe.
“Some things have changed since I started, but we still put out fires and help rescue people from road accidents.
“The biggest changes have come in our level of sophistication and the prevention work which has cut down the number of incidents.”
But in the light of difficult economic times, Mr Bathgate foresees an uncertain future.
He said: “There are going to be some really tough times ahead. We are having to cut millions from our budget and we are potentially looking at having to get rid of fire engines.
“It’s also difficult when you see other fire services down South who are not being cut in the same way, as we are facing nearly double the cuts they are.
“I cannot see any recruitment happening in the next three years and my heart also goes out to the young men and women who would make great firefighters, but the opportunity will just not be there.”
Chairman of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority Coun Bob Heron said: “There is no doubt that we will be very sad to see Iain go.
“Iain will be leaving behind a tremendous legacy. I would like to thank him for his commitment.”
Iain Bathgate factfile
l He entered the service as a firefighter at Hebburn Fire Station in 1978.
l He served as a junior officer at stations in Wallsend, Gateshead, Tunstall and Sunderland.
l After 13 years in fire stations, he worked as a legislative fire safety officer in both Sunderland and South Tyneside before becoming the service’s training officer.
l He was appointed assistant chief officer for operational and technical services in 2001 before progressing to deputy chief fire officer in July 2006.
l Finally he was made chief fire officer on 25 December 2007.