Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service celebrates new recruits as they complete their training course

The first firefighters recruit course to take place during the coronavirus pandemic at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service draws to an end this week.

Despite the on-going pandemic, the Service was committed to running the course and celebrating the passing out parade, ensuring the necessary restrictions were put in place which enabled everyone involved to maintain a safe distance.

Yesterday 23 recruits showcased their new skills as part of their passing out parade and are preparing to deploy within the Service.

The parade is a long standing fire service tradition that sees the recruits demonstrate how they have been trained to deal with a range of emergencies and usually takes place in front of their families, senior officers and dignitaries. However, due to social distancing and health and safety restrictions because of Covid-19 yesterday’s event was different.

Family and friends of the recruits were unable to attend the parade in person as with previous years but were able to join in virtually – watching a mixture of pre-recorded and live footage of the event.

The parade includes a number of fire ground scenarios such as a house fire, an aircraft crash and a road traffic collision, as well as a spectacular hose display and is followed by a presentation of certificates and course awards.

The 23 firefighters underwent an intensive 14 week course at TWFRS’ Training Centre in Barmston, Washington.

Temporary Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Lynsey McVay said: “This is an unprecedented time in all of our lives. Our recruits will be deployed at a time when our skills and ability to protect our communities are facing unique challenges and we have to demonstrate that we are ready, willing and able to respond.

“Our firefighters don’t just fight fires and rescue people from road traffic collisions, they play an integral role in our community to help prevent emergencies and accidents occurring in the first place. They also help to educate children on the risks from fire, water and roads.

“Throughout the past 14 weeks our recruits have been put through their paces and been trained at the highest level and their determination and hard work has paid off.

“I’d like to thank their families who have supported them every step of the way, your support has been crucial to their success.

“I’d also like to thank our Training Centre Instructors for making the necessary changes to the course to allow us to deliver it safely for all concerned, it was no mean feat.”

Training course 51/20 at their passing out parade

Amongst the new recruits are two brothers, two internal candidates from TWFRS’ Control Room and Technical Services, a teacher, lecturer, insurance advisor, mechanical fitter, engineer and a multi-sports coach.

The parade took place at TWFRS headquarters in Washington and following the demonstrations the recruits were presented with awards.

  • Former science teacher Matt Crossland received the prestigious Silver Axe award, which has been presented to each course’s top trainee since 1948. He was also awarded the George Maddox trophy for best performance in breathing apparatus training.
  • The Dan McCormack trophy for achieving the highest theoretical marks was awarded to William ‘Jonny’ Hammond who was a Crew Manager for the Blue Watch in TWFRS Control.
  • The John Hall Memorial trophy was introduced in 2019 to honour a former TWFRS Training Centre Manager who passed away in April. It was awarded to former ambulance care technician Rhys Glover who demonstrated the highest levels of physical fitness throughout the course.
  • Former lecturer in automotive engineering and refinishing Kev Lewis was awarded the Dusty Ashman trophy. The winner of this award is voted by the course participants as the “Recruits’ Recruit” for truly embracing the team spirit of being a firefighter.
Matt Crossland received Silver Axe award
Kev Lewis received the Dusty Ashman trophy
Rhys Glover received the John Hall Memorial trophy
William 'Jonny' Hammond received the Dan McCormack trophy

Cllr Tony Taylor, Chair of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, said: “Yesterday was a fantastic celebration of 23 people who have risen to the challenge of becoming Firefighters. Huge congratulations to each and every one of them, I wish them the very best as they continue to learn and develop their firefighting skills within Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

“And also congratulations to the Service and in particular the Training Centre Instructors who have worked tirelessly to ensure this course could go ahead in exceptionally challenging circumstances – its testament to the dedication of the Service in its commitment to protecting the communities of Tyne and Wear.”

The final day of the course is today, Friday 24 July and following this, the 23 recruits will join their new watches and stations across the Service to start the next stage of their training and development.

The recruits will be stationed at stations across the Service area:

  • Byker Fire Station – 4
  • Farringdon Fire Station – 4
  • Gateshead Fire Station – 4
  • Hebburn Fire Station – 1
  • South Shields Fire Station – 4
  • Sunderland Fire Station – 1
  • Tynemouth Fire Station – 4
  • West Denton Fire Station – 1
Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther pictured with 51/20