Floods bring remarkable year to an end for our firefighters

Cambridgeshire fire fighters are always up for a challenge

Charity fund raising, always part of a firemen's enterprise. - Credit: Archant

It was a year like no other for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue that culminated in being called upon to deal with extensive flooding across the county.  

Here we take a look at 2020 – as seen through the eyes of its chief fire officer since 2016, Chris Strickland, and awarded the Queen’s Medal in the New Year’s Honours. 

The tally of calls received throughout 2020 is formidable – in Cambridgeshire alone there were 10,000 emergency calls.  

Flooding presented a challenge for Cambs fire crews 

Flooding presented a challenge for Cambs fire crews - Credit: Archant

Cambs fire and rescue sent fire engines and officers to more than 6,000 incidents, including 1,800 fires and more than 300 road traffic collisions.  

Crews attended 116 animal rescues, ranging from cattle stuck in water to kittens trapped in cars. 


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Chief fire officer Chris Strickland noted that “the year ended with another major incident being declared in the days before Christmas as wide-spread flooding hit the county.  

“Crews, officers and senior leaders were kept busy throughout the festive period helping those affected by the flooding and joining multi-agency calls to coordinate the emergency response”. 

Pet rescue for Cambs fire

Cheerfully helping with a pet rescue - Credit: Archant

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But despite 2020 bringing unprecedented challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fire service believes it has continued to deliver vital services to the residents of Cambridgeshire.  

Even before the pandemic fully began in March, storms Ciara and Dennis hit the county with high winds reaching between 50 and 70 miles per hour.  

Crews and call handlers were kept busy helping residents deal with the bad weather while also working with other services to help prepare and respond where needed. 

Tackling the pre Christmas floods in Cambridgeshire 

Tackling the pre Christmas floods in Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

The service also invited around 200 delegates to a conference in February to highlight the importance of sprinkler systems. Held in St Ives, the focus of the day was about the challenges faced by the fire and rescue service in higher risk buildings and protecting vulnerable people. 

The pandemic was declared a major incident by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Resilience Forum in March.  

We have nothing to give but blood, toil and sweat. Cambs fire fighters in charity mood in 2020.

We have nothing to give but blood, toil and sweat. Cambs fire fighters in charity mood in 2020. - Credit: Archant

This led to many staff having to work from their homes, while operational staff based at stations, and Combined Fire Control at Service HQ, had to ensure they were social distancing and making the premises Covid secure. Regardless of the challenges, the service says it had more fire engines available to respond when needed than in previous years as many of our on-call staff were furloughed form their main employment. 

Mr Strickland said: "The Covid-19 pandemic presented us with unprecedented challenges in so many different areas. “Our primary focus was keeping our staff safe and well so we could provide the services that residents needed. This meant staff across the service having to adapt to new ways of working, while also juggling family commitments. 

"Our staff have all worked exceptionally hard to keep things going. For instance, we still needed to recruit staff, both for operational and support roles, so we had to modify our processes and carry out interviews and selections virtually.  

We have nothing to give but blood, toil and sweat. Cambs fire fighters in charity mood in 2020.

A head for heights a pre-requisite, of course, of being a Cambs firefighter. - Credit: Archant

“We also had to continue to train our operational staff and carry out assessments on their competences, which required an entirely new way of doing things." 

More than 60 new firefighters joined in 2020, most arriving during the pandemic. The service’s training centre adapted the initial programme to ensure the new staff were able to join and get the required input they needed. Additionally four new emergency call handlers joined Combined Fire Control along with 20 new staff arriving in support roles.

Tackling a house  blaze in Cambridgeshire

Tackling a house blaze in Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant


"It wasn’t just within the fire service where our staff were needed,” said Mr Strickland. 

“Driver training instructors were seconded to the East of England Ambulance Service Trust to train new ambulance drivers.” 

On-call firefighters were also called upon to support the trust by driving ambulances due to demand. Other staff joined the county’s community hub to provide support for vulnerable residents, from delivering vital supplies to making welfare calls to homes. 

Charity car wash always part of the year for firefighters - even during a pandemic.

Charity car wash always part of the year for firefighters - even during a pandemic. - Credit: Archant

Mr Strickland concluded: "It really was a challenging year for us but thanks to our staff who have really gone the extra mile this year, we have continued to deliver our service to the people of Cambridgeshire. 

“I am very proud to work with such a dedicated group of people, who are passionate about serving their communities. 

"We begin 2021 in another national lockdown and we will continue to do all we can to help people through these tough times. I’m sure we will face further challenges too when Covid has passed, but I am confident we’ll all be able to rise to these and continue to keep Cambridgeshire residents safe." 

Recruitment with style and a little fun. The fire service in Cambridgeshire has just announced it is looking for recruits...

Recruitment with style and a little fun. The fire service in Cambridgeshire has just announced it is looking for recruits in 2021 - Credit: Archant

For Mr Strickland the year also ended with him being recognised by Her Majesty the Queen in her New Year Honours List. 

He was awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal for his distinguished service. 

Cllr Kevin Reynold, chair of the fire authority, said: “Chris has provided outstanding leadership throughout his career in Cambridgeshire, which has been particularly prevalent during the pandemic.  

Variety - all part of being a Cambs fire fighter 

Variety - all part of being a Cambs fire fighter - Credit: Archant

“This has certainly been a contributing factor in us being recognised as one of the top performing services in the country." 

Mr Strickland said: “I am truly honoured to be receiving this award from Her Majesty. I never thought when I began my career that I would be recognised in this way. 

"I thought I had encountered most things, then I found myself in the midst of a global pandemic trying to keep an emergency service operational. 

Front line, back room: its all about team effort and team spirit

Front line, back room: its all about team effort and team spirit - Credit: Archant

"I wouldn't have even been considered for this honour without the help and support of the great team I work with; I will receive the medal on their behalf and wear it with great pride." 

Most days you never know what the next call will bring - often though it is a successful rescue.

Most days you never know what the next call will bring - often though it is a successful rescue. - Credit: Archant

Support for Cambs fire service comes in all shapes and sizes - such as this at Ely 

Support for Cambs fire service comes in all shapes and sizes - such as this at Ely - Credit: Archant

When you're up - you're up until you're told when to come down! Training with Cambs fire and rescue 

When you're up - you're up until you're told when to come down! Training with Cambs fire and rescue - Credit: Archant

Training comes in all guises - necessary to do the job in the 21st century

Training comes in all guises - necessary to do the job in the 21st century - Credit: Archant

It may look fun - but there's a reason for everything, including a fire fighter in water! 

It may look fun - but there's a reason for everything, including a fire fighter in water! - Credit: Archant

Not an uncommon sight but all in a day's work as fire fighters tackle a car that is on fire. 

Not an uncommon sight but all in a day's work as fire fighters tackle a car that is on fire. - Credit: Archant

There is a great feeling to rescuing a family pet - we are confident the rescue animal feels likewise. 

There is a great feeling to rescuing a family pet - we are confident the rescue animal feels likewise. - Credit: Archant

Modern fire fighting needs the latest equipment, and Cambs firefighters are provided with it. First though is to learn how...

Modern fire fighting needs the latest equipment, and Cambs firefighters are provided with it. First though is to learn how to use it effectively - Credit: Archant

One of many challenging blazes the fire service in Cambridgeshire was called upon to deal with in 2020. 

One of many challenging blazes the fire service in Cambridgeshire was called upon to deal with in 2020. - Credit: Archant

Out and about in the community early in 2020 before what became one of its most challenging periods for Cambridgeshire...

Out and about in the community early in 2020 before what became one of its most challenging periods for Cambridgeshire fire and rescue - Credit: Archant

Front line fire fighting can be both daunting and challenging but for those who join it can be an uplifting career choice 

Front line fire fighting can be both daunting and challenging but for those who join it can be an uplifting career choice - Credit: Archant

Diversity is important for all of our emergency services. Cambs fire and rescue is proud of its support and its record of...

Diversity is important for all of our emergency services. Cambs fire and rescue is proud of its support and its record of support for the LGBT community - Credit: Archant

Looks fun, is fun and good for showing community support.  A trip down the river - you can;t beat it! 

Looks fun, is fun and good for showing community support. A trip down the river - you can;t beat it! - Credit: Archant

Part of the annual awards ceremony of Cambridgeshire fire and rescue. Outstanding service is always recognised.

Part of the annual awards ceremony of Cambridgeshire fire and rescue. Outstanding service is always recognised. - Credit: Archant

Physical fitness doesn't come easy for any of us - firefighters need to stay in shape ready for the challenges they face 

Physical fitness doesn't come easy for any of us - firefighters need to stay in shape ready for the challenges they face - Credit: Archant

A simple but poignant thank you to the firefighters of Cambridgeshire for whom 2020 is a year they will always remember. 

A simple but poignant thank you to the firefighters of Cambridgeshire for whom 2020 is a year they will always remember. - Credit: Archant


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