County fire chief Alex calls it a day

Northumberland's Chief Fire Officer has announced he is retiring from the role, amid proposed changes to the service.

Tuesday, 8th March 2016, 7:20 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th March 2016, 7:21 am
Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett

Alex Bennett came to the county in 2002, having already served 18 years in Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

He transferred to Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service as head of operations and divisional commander, leading on a number of modernisation projects for the service. He became Deputy Chief Fire Officer in 2005, Acting Chief Fire Officer in 2010 and was promoted to Chief Fire Officer in January 2012.

At the end of last year, he defended proposed changes to the service, which includes removing the retained (on-call) fire appliance from West Hartford Community Fire Station, as well as replacing the second retained (on-call) fire appliance at Alnwick Community Fire Station and the retained (on-call) fire appliances at Ponteland, Seahouses and Wooler Community Fire Stations with smaller fire appliances. The proposals have proved controversial, with a petition being launched against the potential cuts.

During his time in Northumberland, Alex has led the fire and rescue team which was awarded a National Innovations Award in 2010 for developing a partnership with Sure Start that has seen community fire stations and children’s centres located together.

He chairs a UK Fire Services breathing apparatus user group and the England & Wales Wildfire Forum, a multi-agency partnership. He was also until recently the Chief Fire Officers Association’s technical workstream lead officer for wildfire.

Speaking about his retirement, Alex said: “It has been a privilege to be the chief fire officer of Northumberland for the last five years, leading a superb organisation of dedicated professionals protecting our communities. I have been proud to be involved in modernising the service, while seeing it through major challenges in improving performance and managing significant financial pressures.”

He is due to retire in July and a successor will be appointed in the coming months.