More than 35 years’ service by Suffolk on-call firefighter recognised by The Queen

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An on-call firefighter based in Suffolk has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, being awarded The Queen’s Fire Service Medal.

Brian HawesBrian Hawes, Watch Commander at Elmswell Fire Station, has received the honour for displaying outstanding leadership, professionalism and community spirit in his 36 years as a retained firefighter and officer, supporting the local community with fundraising activities for local causes and charities.

Brian joined Suffolk Fire and Rescue on September 21 1980 as a retained firefighter at the age of 18 and for many years has been in charge of the retained fire station in Elmswell.

During his time in charge of the station, Brian has educated local children, arranging fire service visits for local schools and teaching Great Fire of London history lessons, as well as promoting fire safety campaigns at village events.

For many years, Brian has also organised monthly bingo night, an annual car wash, Community Open Days with Police colleagues (who are now based at the shared fire and police station), an annual Emergency Services Open and Fun Day held at the station in Elmswell; Christmas Eve bag-packing and charity collection at the local Co-op store and most recently has supported the community, with the Parish Council, to establish a Citizens Advice Bureau surgery in the village.

The events organised by Brian usually raise around £8,000 a year, which is donated to a variety of charities and good causes at an annual prize giving and cheque presentation evening.

Brian’s commitment was recognised locally in 2016 when Elmswell fire station received the Colonel Probert Award for Community Initiative from Community Action Suffolk.

This award now sits alongside several others at the fire station with Elmswell having received the Suffolk ‘best fire station’ award at the local fire service awards ceremony on several occasions.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer, Mark Hardingham, said:

"Brian has run the fire station and led the on-call firefighters in a way that has established and maintained the station at the very heart of the local community. His dedication to the professionalism of his firefighters and the manner in which they respond to emergencies in the village is exemplary – he is well known throughout the village.

“At a time when it is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain on-call firefighters, and the expectations placed on those officers who lead them is ever increasing, Brian is a shining light in the Service and an example to his colleagues old and new.

“Of course there are other long-serving on-call officers who have demonstrated similar commitment; what sets Brian apart is the way he has voluntarily committed his time and effort to personally lead the station in fundraising for local community groups and educating young people in the community.”

Brian said:

“I couldn’t believe I’ve received this honour. It’s a great honour to receive this. Reading through past recipients, there’s been some very high ranking officers, so it is a real honour.

“It’s been a tough job to keep it quiet! Receiving the honour is because of the fundraising activities we’ve done at the station for the past 10 years and we’ve just been getting on with it thinking it’s going unnoticed but obviously it doesn’t.

“If the work we do means one person goes home, tests their smoke alarm and has to change it, in theory that is one life saved.

“But I couldn’t receive this award without the crew behind me, backing me and supporting me. It might be my honour but I’ve got the utmost pride in my station and the way we do things.”

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, said:

“The Queen’s Fire Service medal is one that is fitting for Brian and is a fantastic recognition of his professionalism, commitment and community spirit.

“The work of the firefighters, led by Brian, to promote fire safety and prevention for local people has ensured greater community wellbeing and has cemented the reputation of the local firefighters as an outstanding team.”

Julie and Brian Hawes Buckingham Palace