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Fire chief's faith helps him deliver

RichardElliottThe man in charge of Norfolk's 800-strong Fire Service says his Christian faith helps him to cope with the pressure of fires, fatalities and even riots, which he faces alongside his colleagues.

Norfolk's Chief Fire Officer sees partnership, challenges and living life by example as key components to his work. Richard Elliott has been head of the vital fire and rescue service for the last five years. His team comprises 800 fire-fighters, plus control room and support staff which operates across 40 fire stations.

As head of Norfolk Fire Service, Richard is on duty 24/7 with a phone and pager always within grasp to be able to respond to emergencies, politicians and the press.

With incidents including fatalities, injury and even riots to deal with, Richard explained that team spirit, a black humour and looking after each other helped firefighters to cope. Yet for him an experience in 1980 made a major impact.

Working alongside a firefighter with a Christian faith, he was encouraged to make a stand and adopt a lifestyle which could have a practical and positive effect in the workplace. An obvious sign was the cleaning up of language.

Richard's whole outlook changed and a commitment to living his life by example followed. He adds, "I have learned not to be frightened to express my Christianity. In fact some of my bosses have come to me for advice."

Delivering a statutory duty and service to the people of Norfolk means taking decisions which may not always be popular.

"I care for people, service and value, where I have to strike a balance," said Richard. "Not losing sight of team spirit, I try and give everyone a chance to make a case and get as much information as possible."

In his executive role, Richard has found he has met many Christians in high-profile positions running services in Norfolk. "We can share a common understanding through work and faith," said Richard, who sees partnership as vital.

"We recognise the importance of working alongside the police, road planners, adult social services and others as we share many common problems and concerns resulting from road tragedies and fires."

Following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, Richard starting as a fire-fighter in Southampton where he worked his way through the junior ranks within Hampshire for nine years.

He moved to the Midlands and, as a staff officer, worked behind the scenes with a wide range of responsibilities covering premises, fleet, public relations and dealing with "good and bad news".

He progressed to operational work in South East London in 1991 and moved through management as Divisional Commander, then Principal Officer and later Deputy Chief Fire Officer in Shropshire – taking care of the "day to day running of the service".

Now he is in Norfolk, Richard worships in the Barnham Broom and Upper Yare Group of parishes where he is involved in music, the ministry team and the Deanery Synod. He also plays tennis and is a keen organic gardener.

Family man Richard, who is married to Caroline with two sons, is optimistic for the future: "Delivering the best service for Norfolk is what motivates me," he says.
By Kevin Gotts

Pictured above is Norfolk’s chief fire officer Richard Elliott.


Dec 2005

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