Fire chief at 35!

SUFFOLK is to have the youngest fire chief in the country, The Evening Star can reveal today.Lee Howell is set to take on the white helmet as Chief Fire Office and Director of Public Protection after Malcolm Alcock retires on November 30.

SUFFOLK is to have the youngest fire chief in the country, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Lee Howell is set to take on the white helmet as Chief Fire Office and Director of Public Protection after Malcolm Alcock retires on November 30.

At 35 Mr Howell will certainly be the youngest Chief Fire Officer in Britain – and possibly the youngest Chief Fire Officer ever in this country.

He has been Suffolk's Assistant Chief Fire Officer, in charge of the service's operations, since arriving in the county 18 months ago.


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He had previously spent 10 years as a firefighter in Essex and a further five in Berkshire as well as spending four months working for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Fire Services.

He was interviewed for the county's top job last week and told on Monday that he had got it – although it will not be formally announced until it has been ratified by the council's executive committee.

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However that is expected to be a formality.

As well as Chief Fire Officer, Mr Howell will also be director of public protection, responsible for emergency planning in Suffolk and the trading standards department.

The post carries a salary of about £100,000 a year and there were concerns earlier this month that if a non-firefighter was appointed there would also have to be a separate chief fire officer.

This appointment eliminates those concerns.

Mr Howell said today he felt very honoured to have been offered the top job – and he is looking forward to leading the service during a period of great change.

He said: "I realise that I have been offered the job at a very young age. I have worked hard but I have also been very lucky to be in this position.

"I am especially fortunate in having worked in most areas of firefighting during my career – that is important coming into this job.

"There are a lot of changes coming through over the next few years, and I am very much looking forward to implementing them here.

"The people here are very good. It's a good team that I am inheriting," he added.

Mr Howell is married to Fiona and they live with their five-month-old daughter near Needham Market.

"Although I'm not originally from Suffolk I love the county and we are very happily settled here," he said.

Mr Alcock said one of the reasons he had decided to retire now was to give someone else the chance to lead the fire service during a period of change.

"There are going to be major changes in Suffolk over the next four or five years and the service needs to be led by someone who will be here to see those through.

"We now have that – Lee could be here for the next 20 years!" he said.

Mr Howell followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a firefighter – and is now looking forward to leading the Suffolk service in the next few years.

He takes over at a time of change, as a new firefighting strategy is brought in and the county's firefighting at sea team is re-established.

Mr Alcock is retiring at the end of the month after leading the service through a turbulent few years – including the firefighters' strike and major incidents such as the Center Parcs fire at Elvedon and recent major blazes at Bury St Edmunds.

Do you have a story about the work of the fire service? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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