Page 16 - July 2017
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Meet the Chief
In this our regular spot we look at the Chief Fire Officers within the UK
Chris Strickland, Chief Fire Officer for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.
LEADERSareexpectedtobeabletomaketough decisions if it’s for the good of the organisation, but talking to Chris Strickland, Chief Fire Officer with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS), it’s clear that people are always at the heart of any life-changing decisions he makes. Chris joined Cambridgeshire as Assistant Chief Fire Officer in 2007, having spent 24 years with Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service where he became a firefighter at “eighteen years of age.” He spent twelve years riding the pumps – five as a firefighter and seven in the equivalent of today’s Crew and Watch Commander roles. Next came six years as a Station Officer, today’s Station Commander role, before he was promoted to Group, then Area Commander in 2004.
Chris left Hertfordshire to join CFRS as an Assistant Chief Fire Officer in 2007. He was promoted to Deputy Chief Fire Officer in 2008 before his promotion to Chief Fire Officer in 2016. In addition to his responsibility within CFRS, Chris also chairs the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) Sector Resources Committee and is chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Resilience Forum.
It’s clear from talking to Chris that he has always tried to strike the right balance between
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progressing his own career and doing the right thing by others. Take his decision to move to Cambridgeshire. “I was interested in getting to Assistant Chief Fire Officer level. However, the opportunity for progression in Hertfordshire where I was at the time was limited and it was clear it would be some time before anything came up,” said Chris. “I was looking around but was wrestling between the needs of my family and my career aspirations. I felt uncomfortable about uprooting my family and wanted to move somewhere which would allow my children to stay in their school and not lose their social networks. So when an ACO position in Cambridgeshire came up I saw that as a job I could apply for and where I could achieve both.” Chris and his family looked at moving somewhere in south Cambridgeshire that was within close proximity to his home in Baldock. However, fate lent a hand when the fire authority decided his home location was close enough to Service Headquarters for him to respond to operational incidents when required.
When he joined the Service, economic times were very different to the way they are today. “When I joined the Service back in 2010, it was very different. For a number of years we had been subject to performance assessment and were always looking for ongoing efficiencies but our budget always increased every year. “In 2010 the first Comprehensive Spending Review happened and everything changed. We moved from efficiencies to having to make huge savings from our budget and the whole challenge became about significantly reducing our budget whilst aiming to continue to deliver the best service possible to the community.” Chris says it’s important for leaders to be able to make tough decisions but adds: “For me it’s never been about status or money. I’ve always wanted to do the best I can and to work as part of a motivated and high performing team that aims to improve its delivery of service. When you are trying to do that and you necessarily impact people in negative ways it has never felt good to me. Making a decision that means people will lose their job is a terrible thing to do but unfortunately it has been necessary.”

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