A South Yorkshire fire officer says his ancestor’s story shows how joint working between the emergency services is more than a century old.
The great grandfather of Sheffield Central Station Manager Simon Rodgers was an officer with Sheffield Police & Fire Brigade based at West Bar in the city, now the site of the National Emergency Services Museum.
A newly uncovered photograph from 1901 shows Alfred Redmile from Grimesthorpe in Sheffield in his uniform, which mirrored that of the Royal Navy.
The fire service’s naval connections began in London in the late 1800s, when ex-sailors were often recruited as firefighters for the early city brigades due to their discipline, physical fitness and skills at working at height.
Those naval traditions still resonate today- with the fire service terms ‘watch’, ‘line’, ‘strings’ and ‘rounds’ all harking back to sea-faring days.
Simon said: “I had a vague understanding that my great-grandfather on my mother’s side used to work for the police and fire service, but it’s only recently that I’ve discovered his full story. He worked as a firefighter for six months before enjoying a long career as a police officer.
“All the emergency services are proud to be serving local people, but it’s particularly interesting to me given my family connections that, as we continue to look for new ways of working more closely with our police colleagues, collaboration with the other emergency services in fact has a decades long history.
“The same can’t be said for the naval uniforms which my grandfather wore though! Apparently they didn’t go down well with the firefighters who had to wear them and they were quickly changed to something which more closely resembles what firefighters wear today.”
The Policing & Crime Act 2016 placed a new, statutory duty on all three emergency services to look at opportunities to work with one another better to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
In South Yorkshire, fire crews already attend hundreds of ‘medical break-ins’ every year, where they gain access to properties where people are thought to be in need of urgent medical attention, but where ambulance service paramedics cannot get to them. This work used to be carried out by the police.
A Local Intervention and Falls Episodes (LIFE) team has been been set up in Sheffield which sees fire and police staff visit hundreds of homes in the city to reduce fire risk in properties, improve security and help people who have fallen and contribute to reducing the risk of falls.
Lifewise is an interactive safety centre which is jointly run by the police and fire services and opened in 2011 to deliver education packages to more than 20,000 local people every year.
Last month, a new joint fire and police station opened in Maltby in Rotherham.
Work is also underway to improve the way the police and fire services work together in several other areas, including their community safety and prevention work.