A brave fight against a rare medical condition, terrified children being saved from a burning building and a dog which travelled the world to rescue people.
These may sound like plotlines from a Hollywood blockbuster but they are just a few of the real life stories from some of the amazing people who make up Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
There are hundreds of incredible tales in this emergency services family and last night (December 1) a ceremony was held at the police training centre in Netley to recognise a few of these heroes.
Chief Officer Dave Curry said:
“I am extremely proud of our firefighters and staff and therefore I am delighted to be here again to recognise some of their incredible achievements.
“The courage, determination and professionalism that shine through in these stories shows why our people have a special place in the public’s heart.
“It is fantastic that during a period of change and modernisation we see so many examples of Hampshire firefighters and staff upholding the finest traditions of the service.”
The winner of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority chairman Chris Carter's award was Gosport firefighter Paul Ponsford, who was paralysed on his left side, unable to walk or talk and partially blind after suffering a bleed on the brain from a swollen Cavernoma.
He was told any recovery was unlikely but he has astounded medics and through determination and treatment has, within a year, started a phased return to work – even cycling to the station.
Another person recognised was Jenna Shergold, from the control room, who won one of two Individual Special Recognition Awards selected by the Chief.
She helped save two terrified young children who were trapped in a burning building in Gosport.
Despite the high stress situation she managed to calm down the children, aged six and nine, and explain that help was on its way and got vital information the firefighters needed.
Thanks to her survival advice the children had managed to leave the house through a window and get to safety before crews arrived minutes later.
The other person to win this award was lead safeguarding officer Paul Francis for his work in building relationships with other agencies, clarifying policies with crews and establishing clear referral routes.
Four members of the public – Heather Ross, Emma Rowden, Thomas Slater and Darren Wright – were recognised with The Service Management Team’s Letter of Appreciation.
The group came to the aid of homeless man who was on fire in Winchester in March this year and, despite considerable danger to themselves, collectively managed to extinguish the flames and saved the man’s life.
A commendation was also given to crews from Basingstoke, Odiham and Cosham for their determination and compassion in dealing with a casualty in a critical condition who was trapped in his van after a serious crash on the M3 in July. Thanks to their efforts the man was freed and is making a full recovery.
There were two winners of the Chief Officer’s Special Recognition Award.
The first went to Winchester’s full time firefighting team for its work during the Risk Review project. The staff were praised for their engagement and innovation which improved the emergency response provision for the community.
The other went to the Estates Transformation team for carrying out an extensive programme of work at Eastleigh headquarters to create a modern environment that suited the needs of both the fire service and the police.
Moving into a shared headquarters has enabled HFRS and Hampshire Constabulary to work more closely and give the public the best value possible. This pioneering partnership has been praised by two successive home secretaries and was a UK first.
The Supporting Organisation Award went to Whitehill and Bordon Regeneration Company for use of the facilities at the ex-MOD site to practice a variety of realistic firefighting scenarios. This is one of the jewels in the crown of Hampshire’s training facilities which are considered among the best in the country.
The Beneficial Foundation was the recipient of the Partnership Award for the work the organisation does with Portsmouth firefighters to promote fire safety to people who have varying levels of independence.
The Safer Living courses coordinated by General Manager Jennie Brent and fire crews increased students understanding of risk and consequently made them safer.
The Innovation Award went to the Fire as a Health Asset team which has broken new ground with its programme to help older people stay fit and reduce the risk of falls. It has also introduced A Better Me course to help promote healthy living to school children and build up confidence. The team also brought in the Immediate Emergency Care (IEC) project.
Medals for long service and good conduct were also given out which marked 30 years for the Chief and Assistant Chief Officer Andy Bowers and 25 years for Deputy Chief Officer Neil Odin, while Animal Rescue expert Anton Phillips had racked up 40 years.
However, there was one person marked out for a special presentation.
Watch Manager Chas McGill is celebrating 50 years as an operational firefighter – the country's longest serving – and has recently been made an MBE.
A moment was also taken to remember Border Collie Byron, one of the country’s most highly trained dogs having passed the UN’s Mission Readiness test. The skilled canine had been deployed to Japan in 2011 after the tsunami and completed exercises in Germany and the Czech Republic. His handler Robin Furniss is being given an award to mark their achievements.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is well known for its charity work and volunteering and Lyndhurst firefighter Nikki Bridges was presented with the Charity Award for her work in Africa where she helped raise £8,600, renovated a school and gave talks about her role with the service.
She plans to return with a fire service team to raise funds for The Fire Fighters Charity and the African Adventure Foundation.
The Fire Fighters Charity Award went to the intrepid Cockleshell Challenge team of 25 firefighters who retraced the 90-mile kayak journey of the Royal Marines who took part in Operation Frankton in World War Two.
This mission raised £10,000 for the Fire Fighters Charity, RNLI, Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund and The Special Boat Service Association.
Alan Blatchford was recognised for his commitment in giving up his time to hold regular fitness classes for members of staff and supporting others with health improvement programmes to reduce sickness. He received the Volunteer Award.
Hampshire Sports and Social Association’s golf section also scooped an award for all the members who have represented HFRS in individual and team events across the UK. This year they won national fire service golf championship the PBI Sheriff’s Cup in Aberdeen – previously its highest ranking was fifth.
Chairman Chris Carter said:
“It is humbling, as ever, to be in the presence of so many people who work tirelessly to make the communities of Hampshire safer and stronger.
“The commitment and desire to go the extra mile to help others is apparent in the actions they carry out everyday and this is what this event is all about.
“I personally, and the authority as a whole, feel extremely proud of our involvement with one of the best fire and rescue services in the country.”