Meet the former photographer who decided to focus on becoming a life-saver

A former photographer has put down the camera and picked up a headset – to answer 999 calls at one of the country’s busiest fire and rescue services.

Craig Llewellyn, 37, who works as a member of Blue Watch in the Fire Control Room at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

He joined the Service in March 2022 and has now received the highest possible grade in his apprenticeship programme.

Craig is originally from Hartlepool, but now resides in North Shields, and has spoken of his pride at being awarded top marks and a distinction.

Craig adds: “I do feel like I am playing an important role in keeping our communities safe and often speak to people when they’re scared or in a crisis situation.

“It is really important that I stay calm, reassure the caller and most importantly to extract the information we need to deploy the right resources.

“The programme has been life changing for me. It has given me the opportunity to learn new skills and develop others whilst building a career within TWFRS.

“This hands-on approach gave me valuable experience, and the continued support from my colleagues in the Fire Control team has been incomparable.”

Craig, who has a law degree and a Journalism Masters from Sunderland University, is from a firefighting family so life-saving is in the blood.

He is following in the footsteps of his Uncle who worked as a Firefighter for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.

The TWFRS Control Room team can answer more than 100,000 calls a year on average, and in 2022/23 of those total calls over 35,000 were handled which relate to 999 emergencies.

Paul Russell, Area Manager Community Safety, said: “We are so proud of our Fire Control apprentices who have successfully completed the Emergency Call Handler Apprenticeship programme.

“It is a very challenging and hands-on course which is intentionally designed to test and equip the call handlers with skills and learning scenarios that will put them on the right road for working in our Control room.

“The excellent qualities of the course is a massive benefit to the Service, with our staff experiencing thorough on-the-job training of the highest calibre.

“The candidates themselves will leave the apprenticeship with a recognised qualification that will be invaluable for their own personal career development.”

When Ofsted inspectors visited the Service last year they were ‘extremely impressed’ by the Fire Control apprentices at TWFRS.

In particular they praised the manner in which they handled the calls, their approach to the callers and the way they gathered information to dispatch crews.

Craig is one of four TWFRS apprentices who studied on the new course, and they are part of a 30-strong team of Emergency Call Handlers who help to keep Tyne and Wear safe from harm.

To learn more about the work of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service please visit our website