London fire officer recognised for 30 years of service
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bernie Higgins has been presented with a long service award by London Fire Brigade for more than 30 years of service to the capital.
Bernie is head of the team which manages the Brigade's specialist equipment used at major incidents in London and nationally. He joined the Brigade in October 1978 and was posted to Mitcham Fire Station. Bernie said: "The job is incredibly rewarding and at times incredibly challenging both mentally and physically. The service has met many challenges over my time and we have overcome each and every one of these thanks to a mixture of a positive ‘can do' attitude and a tremendous pride in the service we provide to the people of London. I will always be very proud to say that I am a London firefighter."
Bernie Higgins lives on Deans Road in Sutton and has had many memorable moments throughout his career, but as he puts it, "this one in particular sums it up". He recalls: "As Station Officer at Wandsworth fire station, I received a phone call from a member of the public thanking us for saving her fiancé's life at a fire in their flat on East Hill. The flat was well alight when we arrived and the crews not only braved intense heat and dense black smoke to find this guy and carry him out, but they also helped ambulance crews to resuscitate him."
He also remembers a major incident in January 1985 were a gas explosion demolished a block of flats on Putney Hill in Wandsworth. Bernie takes up the story: "I was a firefighter at Tooting fire station and attended the incident at around 7.15am on a very cold winter's morning. I remember the scene of devastation when we arrived how hard we worked removing rubble and debris by hand in order to locate survivors. Sadly eight people died."
Commentating on the changes to the service over 30 years, Bernie said: "The Brigade has always embraced change in many forms, though the pace of change has accelerated hugely over the last eight years. Our equipment has improved immeasurably and the new uniform now offers us much better protection than ever. We have always promoted fire prevention, however we now work much more closely with partner agencies to improve safety which prevent fires and other emergencies from happening. This hard work is showing great results across London with the reduction in fires and other incidents, something which the LFB is rightly proud of.
"When I first joined the LFB there were no women firefighters and very few black or ethnic minority firefighters. LFB now has the most diverse workforce of any UK fire and rescue service and that has had a very positive impact, both on the service we provide and on the internal culture of the organisation. There is absolutely no doubt that this has played a major part in improving the service we deliver."
The award was presented last week at a special ceremony held at the Brigade's training centre in Southwark.
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