Fire Service celebrates legacy left behind by retiree after 40-years’ keeping communities safe

This week a manager at one of the country’s leading Fire and Rescue Services is retiring after 40-years’ dedicated service and leaves behind a lasting legacy.

Karen Soady, a Prevention and Strategy Manager at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), who was based in Washington, has enjoyed eight different roles across her four decades working in the region.

Karen’s positions included working in the Fire Control Room as an operator; a secondment with the Prince’s Trust; a Fire Cadet instructor; a Crew Manager, Watch Manager and Station Manager for the Prevention and Education (P&E) team; and her last active role was as Prevention and Strategy Manager.

“Being able to mentor and develop others to achieve their goals has been a privilege and particular career high for myself especially working with the fire cadets for many years,” said Karen, aged 62, of Crawcrook.

Karen leaves her role proud in the knowledge that three of those fire cadets have gone on to enjoy a full-time career within the Fire Service.

Karen adds: “I realise that I’ve been in a fortunate position of being able to make a difference every day I’ve been at work, which is very rewarding.”

She also singled out going to Buckingham Palace in 2017 as a major career highlight. When she and a group of fire cadets collected a top youth award from the future King.

This accolade was swiftly followed by Karen being awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal (QFSM) in March 2018, after being nominated in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for her charity and fundraising achievements alongside the work with the Service’s LGBT+ network group, and being involved in developing the P&E department into a specialist function.

Karen reflects on the importance of the Service’s P&E team that she has managed before her retirement.

She says: “Our prevention work is a vital part of what the Service does to help reduce the number of fires we attend, and in turn, reducing the number of deaths and injuries associated with those fires.

“The essential role of keeping people safe in their homes is incredibly important but at the same time can be both rewarding and challenging.

“The impact of a serious fire is far reaching not only for those directly involved but for the community as well.”

Karen is looking forward to taking a well-deserved breather and enjoying her past times of walking her dogs Fergus and Dottie, outdoor pursuits, and following women’s football.

Karen concludes by talking about the emotions she’ll have this week when leaving the Service for the final time.

She said: “There will be a lot I will miss about working for the Service here in Tyne and Wear, particularly the people, but now I feel is the right time for me to move on and pursue new challenges.

“I have experienced some very special times down the years, which I am really grateful for.”

Group Manager Steve Thomas, Head of TWFRS’s Prevention and Education Department, said:

“Karen will be a great loss to the Service, her colleagues and of course the people of Tyne and Wear, who she has helped to keep safe with her work and campaigns for many years.

“She has shown tremendous dedication and commitment to keeping the residents of Tyne and Wear safe with her prevention and education work.

“But we also owe Karen a debt of gratitude for the devotion she has shown towards our fire cadets, as they go on to become the firefighters of the future, or put the life skills they have learnt to good use for their chosen careers ahead.

“We wish Karen all the best for the future.”