New Chief Fire Officer for West Sussex

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has appointed Gavin Watts as its new Director of Operations and Chief Fire Officer for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS).

Gavin, who is currently WSFRS Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer, will take up his new post next month and succeed Sean Ruth, who is retiring from the fire and rescue service after more than 28 years’ service in June.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is a statutory function provided by the county council and works at the heart of its Communities and Public Protection Directorate. This integrated working and close collaboration with other services means Gavin, as Director of Operations, will have broader responsibilities for planning and delivering the council’s objectives in addition to his Chief Fire Officer role.

Gavin began his fire and rescue service career as a firefighter in Surrey in 1989 and worked in a number of operational and training roles before joining West Sussex as Assistant Chief Fire Officer in November 2013. In that time he has led the fire and rescue service response to the Shoreham Air Show tragedy and to the major fire at the Selsey Academy. He has also been a Director of Communities, leading teams delivering a wide range of community safety and prevention initiatives, and is currently Vice-Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council on road safety issues.

WSCC Leader Louise Goldsmith said, “I believe it’s a really positive appointment for West Sussex. Our firefighters will continue to protect our communities every day with their proactive safety and prevention work alongside a professional emergency response. With Gavin leading as Director of Operations and Chief Fire Officer I am sure we are in the best place to meet future challenges, continuing the transformation of the Council’s services and working together to serve people in West Sussex.”

Sean Ruth said he believed Gavin’s appointment would be well received by the county’s firefighters. He said, “West Sussex firefighters and support staff have undergone significant change in recent years and Gavin’s experience and personal qualities have been evident in helping to lead that process. Gavin will now lead West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service into a new era and will shortly begin the process to appoint a new senior leadership team. I’m delighted to be able to hand over the responsibility to such a professional and respected officer, and I wish him every success.”