Shropshire firefighters inspire letters of gratitude
A Shrewsbury couple were so moved by the courage of firefighters tackling the Grenfell Tower blaze they decided to write a thank-you card to the fire brigade closer to home.
The card, received by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service six days after the West London disaster, praised firefighters for “being such wonderful people”.
It was one of 82 compliments formally received by the Shropshire brigade in the last four years. Others described incidents including a dog rescue from a quarry and a stranded motorist stranded with a flat tyre on the A49.
A report for the fire authority’s Standards, Audit and Performance Committee adds that 83 complaints were made in the same period, although just over half were found to be unsubstantiated.
Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton and Deputy CFO Andy Johnson wrote that compliments received centrally are shared with personnel concerned and their managers then published in the newsletter and online.
They add that the figure of 82 compliments is probably an underestimate.
“Compliments are very often also sent directly to stations, watches or departments and may not always be passed on,” they wrote.
The Shrewsbury couple wrote on June 20, 2017: “It has been a bad week with the Grenfell flats’ fire. The fire and rescue people have been so courageous and I was planning to send them a message. But, I thought, we have our own team here in Shrewsbury – do they get enough thanks for their courage, their endeavour, their humanity? Maybe not.
“Just in case, here is a big thank-you to you all for being such wonderful people.”
Another message, received just before Christmas 2015, thanked rescuers for helping a dog down from a quarry ledge.
"I have never had to call the emergency services before and know how precious your time is,” it said.
“Whilst I know Charlie is just a dog he is a huge part of our family and we would have been devastated if anything had happened to him.”
Other animal rescues that attracted praise included a cat stuck in the Jackfield Tile Museum chimney in 2016 and a peregrine falcon who got caught in netting in Bridgnorth in 2018.
Some compliments were unrelated to emergency calls, like one from a Church Stretton resident in June 2016.
It said: “Profuse thanks to the really kind fire and rescue man who stopped when we had a flat tyre.
“He guided us to safety then changed the wheel for us in about two minutes flat! I offered him a tip but he refused point blank. A true gentleman.”
In their report, Officer Hammerton and Officer Johnson wrote that all complaints, even those found to be unsubstantiated, are studied to identify any improvements that may help to prevent similar complaints arising into the future.
They add: “All complaints are fully investigated, with a written response provided to the complainant, advising of the outcome.”
The 28-day target for responding has “consistently been achieved”, and dissatisfied complaints can appeal to the Chief Fire Officer, Fire Authority chair and, ultimately, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority’s Standards, Audit and Performance Committee will discuss the report when it meets at its Shrewsbury headquarters on Thursday, July 18.