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Exclusive interview with Havering’s London Fire Brigade borough commander

PUBLISHED: 15:29 24 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 24 April 2018

LFB Commander Paul Hobbs outside of Harold Hill Fire Station. Picture: Ken Mears.

LFB Commander Paul Hobbs outside of Harold Hill Fire Station. Picture: Ken Mears.

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London Fire Brigade’s borough commander for Havering Paul Hobbs discussed firefighters’ best resources, new technology and his role in an exclusive interview with the Recorder.

The Recorder sat down with Paul Hobbs, who became the London Fire Brigade (LFB) borough commander for Havering in November, 2017.

Paul is used to being in the city, as his background includes working as borough commander for Islington.

He told the Recorder: “My geographical area was a lot smaller.

“The incidents we see in the city, in my experience, are a lot of high rise fires.

“In Havering we see more car accidents, on roads like the A13 or M25.

“When we do get fires in the borough, they tend to be large industrial fires, where we need to draw more people in.”

As borough commander, Paul still takes part in large incidents and may also attend in a monitoring capacity to provide support to officers in charge.

“As the most senior officer in the borough, I have ultimate responsibility for all the stations and personnel within the borough,” Paul said.

“I do a lot of work with the local authority, and I think it’s critical to have a good relationship with them.

“I’ve got to tailor the support we give to meet the needs of the borough.”

His specialisms include working as an operations review team officer, and bulk media advisor which involves providing large amounts of water to incidents that require it and diverting water if there has been a flood.

The LFB is in the process of replacing all of the fire engines in the city with brand new engines that have a special water pump.

“I call it a smart pump, because there’s a computer on the pump that will tell you how many litres a minute is coming out.

“This is a big step forwards, as we now know exactly how much water is coming in and out.”

Paul explained that the borough is not limited to the fire engines in Harold Hill, Romford, Wennington or Hornchurch stations as the resources are sometimes shared across boroughs.

“We’re a pan-London service, which means that if we need 20 fire engines, we will always get 20 fire engines,” he said.

“We get as many as we need because we can draw them in from other stations.

“Every appliance has GPS tracking, so when an incident comes into the fire control, it works out the route times and the computer will find the shortest route.”

On Paul’s agenda, he hopes to continue and improve collaboration with other emergency services and continue supporting the Fire Cadets.

He said: “We’re all on one team.

“I want to see us work closer with other response teams, like the police and the London Ambulance Service.

“The greatest resource I have are the 120 firefighters, and I am really passionate about building those relationships so that when we have bad days, we can be open and talk about it.”

The 43-year-old borough commander is originally from a small town in Cambridgeshire, and was inspired to become a firefighter after watching London’s Burning and meeting the retained (part-time) firefighters in his area.

“For me, it’s the best job in the world - it’s not really a job but a vocation,” said Paul.

“The relief on people’s faces when you’re done and everybody is safe - there’s no better feeling.”

He shared the importance of firefighters as providing reassurance and guidance to the public, by carrying out home visits.

The home visits have two aims; to protect and prevent.

Paul added: “We are more than a response service. Most of the time, when the crews are not responding, they are out there talking to the public, offering support and advice.

“We’re lucky as a service, that we’re one of the few organisations where we will actually be invited into people’s homes and that’s taken years of a good reputation to build that trust.

“The home fire safety visit is our biggest weapon and we’re not even having to risk our lives to do it.”

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