Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther announced his intention to retire

The most senior firefighter in Tyne and Wear has announced he will retire later this year after 26 years of keeping communities safe.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther announced his retirement from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) at Monday’s (March 13) Fire Authority meeting.

The inspirational leader of TWFRS said he was “proud” to have spent more than six years as Chief Fire Officer.

Chris first joined TWFRS in 1997 and rose through the ranks before being appointed Chief Fire Officer in 2017.

Born and raised in Gateshead, he has spent his entire career with TWFRS and also held a number of prominent national roles with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

He today informed members of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority of his decision and spoke of his pride as being able to represent the Service.

Chris will remain as Chief Fire Officer until a replacement is appointed and a handover is completed. He will retire no later than October 31st.

“It has been the privilege of my life to be Chief Fire Officer of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service,” Chris said.

“I firmly believe this is the best Fire and Rescue Service in the country and that has everything to do with the people who work here.

“Their commitment to creating the safest community is evident every single day and I’m so proud to have worked here for 26 years.

“I will never forget my time on station as a firefighter, responding to emergencies and keeping people safe was what I loved to do.

“I was born in Gateshead, grew up in Gateshead and started as a firefighter in Gateshead. I love this region and I love this Service.

“It is a career that has given me friends for life and an opportunity to meet thousands of people who call Tyne and Wear home.

“Those staff who make this organisation tick are passionate about what they do and they care about our communities.

“I will support the Fire Authority in the appointment of a new Chief Fire Officer but I know the future of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is bright.”

Chris started his career as an operational firefighter based at Gateshead Community Fire Station in 1997.

He went on to work in firefighter training, community safety and operations while also taking on a lead role in a number of national resilience programmes.

As Chief Fire Officer at TWFRS he oversaw two inspections from His Majesty’s Inspectorate for Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

On both occasions the Service were awarded three ‘GOOD’ ratings and praised for their work in keeping communities in Tyne and Wear Safe.

TWFRS were also recognised as being the fastest responding fire and rescue service in the country under his guidance, while Chris oversaw the Service’s response during the Coronavirus pandemic.

His national work also saw him appointed as chair of the NFCC Operations Co-Ordination Committee (OCC), with strategic responsibility for UK response.

He led the introduction of Targeted Response Vehicles (TRVs), day crewing close-call shift patterns, Cobra Coldcut technology and more efficient methods of staffing appliances while facilitating first-class firefighter training.

Chairperson of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, Cllr Phil Tye, today paid tribute to the departing Chief Fire Officer.

He said: “Chris is a dedicated and committed public servant. On both professional and personal levels I will miss working alongside Chris and his quiet but reliable advice, opinions and support.

“I know I speak for every single member of the Fire Authority in my praise for Chris and the professional, friendly and highly effective and efficient way he has led the service and supported the Fire Authority.

“He always has the welfare and wellbeing of the staff he leads in mind and an outlook of what is best for the communities that he has grown up and lives in and has served for over 26 years.

“As we now start the search for our next Chief Fire Officer I offer both my personal thanks and that of the Fire Authority for all that Chris has done and achieved and I have no doubt we will mark that in due course.

“We have much work to do over the coming months and Chris will continue to play a significant role in this until he retires later this year.

“On a final note, I learned a Latin phrase from Chris very early after meeting him and its one he uses as an ethos he believes in and has encouraged across the Service. That is ‘Aut Viam Inveniam Aut Faciam’. Broadly translated it means, ‘I will either find a way or make a way’.

“That is certainly the Service I recognise and under Chris’s leadership as Chief is evident in the outstanding way in which Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service works and supports communities.”

The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority will now begin the process of appointing a new Chief Fire Officer.

It is expected that a replacement will be announced in May and Chris will remain in post following the appointment for a handover period.

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