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Bexley's new fire borough commander meets News Shopper
The London borough of Bexley has a new fire service borough commander.
Melissa Hills popped along to Bexleyheath Fire Station to sit down with Richard Welch and find out about his goals for the new job.
Having had a life-long dream to be a firefighter it is excitement and enthusiasm that Richard Welch has taken into his new role as borough commander for the fire service in Bexley.
Mr Welch, 42, lives in Northumberland Heath, just 0.8miles from the station and he said "if I didn't need my car for work I would walk everyday".
It is the first time in his 20 year career he has had under a two hour commute to work.
Mr Welch said he regularly gets into the office two hours early because he "genuinely loves the job so much ". Mr Welch told News Shopper: "If you spoke to anyone in this building they would all tell you how much they love this job.
"I had a dream from a very young age to be a firefighter and it took three years of applying before I was invited for tests.
"My first two applications were hand written and the third was on a type-writer, I think that was what got me in.
"I was 23 by the time I had finished training school and I was posted to the South East area of London.
"I was stationed at Battersea, Norbury, Clapham and then Tower Hamlets where I worked for 14 years, and I then did one year at Newham."
Mr Welch said his main aim in the new role is to get to know the community of Bexley better so people know who their local firefighter is.
He said: "One way of doing this is by offering free home fire safety visits.
"We will supply and fit smoke alarms for free and give them safety advice about overloaded plug sockets and things which are a fire risk.
"There are lots of people in the borough who are elderly are cared for by family and friends and they might not have had one of these checks.
"Residents need to contact their local fire stations if they want an appointment. We also want to get along to more community events.
"The reality is we are fighting less fires due to our prevention work but we are being called to more road crashes and floods than ever and we have to be adaptable.
"We used to be a reactionary service but with technology and equipment getting better all the time we are now also a preventative service.
"Firefighters are very skilled and spend at least 25 per cent of work time training to make sure those skills are really sharp.
"Prevention is one of our core tasks and its all under the umbrella of community safety."
Another cause close to Mr Welch's heart is raising money for cancer charities and he is preparing to embark on a solo cycle from John O Groats to Lands End on June 7.
He expects the challenge to take 13 days and he is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Nurses.
Mr Welch added: "Everyone has been touched by cancer in some way. Lots of members of my family have died from cancer and last year I had a health scare.
"It just brings home the fact that these nurses do such an amazing job and they should be thanked."
He wants to raise £5000 and if you would like to donate visit http://www.justgiving.com/Richardwelch-jogle
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