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

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) marked the end of its latest firefighter training course today, with 18 recruits showcasing their new skills as part of their passing out parade.

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 in front of their families, senior officers and dignitaries. The scenarios included a house fire, an aircraft crash and a road traffic collision, as well as spectacular hose display. To add a festive twist, the newly-qualified firefighters even rescued Santa Claus from the roof of a burning building!

Over 5,000 aspiring firefighters applied last year when TWFRS launched its first recruitment drive since 2010. This is the second intake from the pool of successful applicants, with the first cohort now serving on stations across Tyne and Wear. 15 of the firefighters who passed out today will join them in January, while three will return home to join the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service.

TWFRS Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said: “To successfully complete this training course is a huge achievement. The new recruits come from a range of different backgrounds but over the past 14 weeks, they have shown that they have courage, strength and determination in common.

I’m very proud of all of them and would like to thank our instructors for training them to the highest of standards. It’s a real honour for us to train not only our own new firefighters, but to also be trusted with the development of three new colleagues who will serve the Isle of Man.”

The parade took place at TWFRS headquarters in Washington. The fire and rescue demonstrations were followed by a presentation of certificates and course awards:

  • Former offshore engineer Craig Payne received the prestigious Silver Axe award, which has been presented to each course’s top trainee since 1948. To receive this award, Craig consistently showed outstanding knowledge and skill throughout the course. He also received the Dan McCormack trophy for achieving the highest theoretical marks.
  • The Dusty Ashman trophy was awarded to Michael Whitley, who was previously an industrial trainer. 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.
  • The winner of the George Maddox trophy for best performance in breathing apparatus training was awarded to former mechanic Blake Kelly. Blake is one of the three new firefighters joining Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service.
  • The John Hall Memorial trophy was introduced this year to honour a former TWFRS Training Centre Manager who passed away in April. Its first winner was Colin Wooster, who demonstrated the highest levels of physical fitness throughout the course. Colin was an airport firefighter before joining TWFRS.

Five of the recruits also passed out with distinction – Ruth Buchanan, James Davenport, Gavin Graham, Craig Payne and Michael Whitley.

Cllr Tony Taylor, Chair of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, commented: “Today has been a fantastic celebration of 18 people who have risen to the challenge of becoming firefighters. It was great to watch them put their new skills into practice in front of their families, whose support has been invaluable to them over the last 14 weeks of hard work.

I’m sure they will continue to learn and develop those skills when they start work at their stations in the new year. They’re at the beginning of a hugely rewarding career and I wish them all the best.”

The next firefighter training course begins in April 2020, with the candidate selection process currently underway.