New fire chief vows to tackle blaze yobs
NEW: Paul Connelly
CLYDEBANK'S new fire chief is pledging to drive down incidents of fire-raising and vandalism blighting the town's communities.
Hardgate-man Paul Connelly has been appointed as Fire and Rescue Area Commander for West Dunbartonshire.
And he vowed to use his 26 years in the service to spearhead a reduction in unnecessary fires.
Mr Connelly said he is delighted on returning to the area where he first served as a firefighter.
He told the Clydebank Post: "I've gone through eight ranks to get to Area Commander and I returned here as a senior officer from 2000 to 2002.
"When it was announced I was coming back to the area for this position, my boss said he was sending me home, and that's what it felt like.
"There's a great sense of pride attached to serving your area and I'm grateful to have been given that opportunity."
The 47-year-old believes the key tool for fire prevention is education of the public and says communities need to know the service is there to help.
And he stressed the best way forward is prevention, not intervention.
He said: "If that's road safety, fire responsibility, open water safety, then we can help.
"When I started in the service we went out and put out fires, but it has changed so much now, it's about educating communities.
"We want the public to talk to us and highlight problems. It's their community and their fire station. I'd encourage them to pop in and see us for advice."
Having served as Area Commander for Argyll and Bute, Paul believes a strong relationship with partners like the police and council is key to serving the community.
But there is a new partnership that will soon come into play. April 2013 will see the introduction of the single fire and rescue force across Scotland, with the amalgamation of the existing eight forces.
But while there has been outspoken opposition to this, Paul believes it is a move for the better and sees it as an opportunity for best practice.
He added: "The single fire service will see a senior officer in the council area and I am happy for that. As I see it, I'm already the senior officer in this area and don't foresee too many changes.
"The single fire service will offer more efficiencies and there will be challenges, but it is definitely for the best.
"At the end of the day, when the public calls 999 for
the fire service, they will still get a big red fire engine coming out.
"And that's the most important thing to understand - our commitment and ability to help the public won't change."
This article appeared in Clydebank Post 17 Jul 12