A new era has begun across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – the two fire and rescue services bordering the Solent formally combined into a new organisation on 1 April 2021. The new Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) will work across 61 stations, keeping nearly two million residents safe.
The two preceding services have worked incredibly closely over the last five years as part of the Delivering Differently in Partnership arrangement. The new service builds upon the strong relationships that have developed and will reap the benefits that working together across the Solent has already highlighted.
Neil Odin is the Chief Fire Officer for HIWFRS, as he was for both Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service. CFO Odin said, “Today we bring together two organisations with rich histories and reputations of high standards and partnership working, for the benefit of our people across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. This is an historic day for the fire service.
“Ever since it was decided we would explore combination in 2018, an incredible amount of work has been undertaken by our people working together across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, as well as our elected members who sat on the Shadow Authority.
“I would like to pay personal tribute to the work of our partners within the Isle of Wight Council, whose support and efforts towards the combination was absolutely vital. We wouldn’t have reached this landmark without the collaboration and professionalism shown by their councillors and teams.”
The shared senior team was just one of the areas, which already linked both services, as well as the control room and Academy training centre.
The decision to combine the two services into a new organisation was made following a public consultation in 2018 and will see a solely fire focused authority govern the Isle of Wight’s fire service for the first time.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Steve Apter, who also acted as Senior Responsible Officer for the CFA Programme, said, “This is a momentous point in the history of the fire service across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as our two organisations embark on our continued mission to make life safer for those in our communities.
“As a resident of the island and a former Isle of Wight Chief Fire Officer, I have been able to witness the close links and strong bonds that have formed between our teams working across the Solent.
“Every fire station remains open, every fire engine remains available. We are now set to commence an exciting and innovative programme of investment across our sites, equipment and fleet ensuring our organisation continues to deliver and improve upon the exceptional service we provide to the people of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”
Staff were overwhelmingly in support of and involved in the development of a fresh identity, created to reflect the new organisation serving Hampshire and Isle of Wight communities.
The way in which fire engines respond across both Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will not change and no stations will be closing. Instead, sites on both sides of the water will feel the benefits of an estate investment programme as well as improvements that will see firefighters using modern technology.