Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have announced the appointment of a new chief fire officer.
Following an extensive selection process, Chris Lowther, currently assistant chief fire officer, Service Delivery, will assume the role and that of chief executive next Monday.
He succeeds current Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lowther started his career as an operational firefighter based at Gateshead Community Fire Station in 1997.
The service say he has an impressive and varied background in training, community safety and operations and has taken a lead role in a number of national resilience programmes.
Ast Chief Fire Officer Lowther has held a number of roles within the fire service, including as a station officer for community safety, during which time he was instrumental in introducing home safety checks which have had a significant impact in reducing fires in the home.
After joining the strategic management team in 2009, he worked as an area manager and then in 2013 was appointed assistant chief officer, assuming overall responsibility for services across five districts, operations, community safety and fire safety.
Ast Chief Fire Officer Lowther sits on the Operations Coordination Committee (OCC), the lead body for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), and was the project executive for the national guidance work on transport.
He has led on the introduction of Targeted Response Vehicles (TRVs), day crewing close-call shift patterns, Cobra Coldcut Technology and more efficient methods of staffing appliances whilst facilitating first class firefighter training.
Having served with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service for nearly 30 years, Chief Fire Officer Capeling took charge in 2012, leading the service through one of the most challenging periods in its history.
He has worked closely with agencies nationally and locally and with other metropolitan fire and rescue services has lobbied government to reinforce the needs of the service.
Under his leadership Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has continued to improve performance, both operationally and corporately.
Chief Fire Officer Capeling also sits on a number of boards, serving as chair of the UK fire and rescue service research and development function and in his own time is a trustee of the Firefighters Charity.
Speaking about his appointment as chief fire officer, Ast Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said: “At Tyne and Wear Fire Rescue Service we strive to be the best service in the country. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved to date and am confident of what we can go on to achieve in the future.
“It is humbling to have been appointed chief fire officer and look forward to continuing to serve the community of Tyne and Wear, my community, and a community that I have served for twenty years.
“As a service we face many challenges, but my priority is to ensure that firefighter safety and the safety of this community remains at the forefront of everything we do.”
The chairman of Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, Councillor Tom Wright, said: “Chris will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role of chief fire officer.
“Chris is a strong and dedicated leader and I have every confidence that we will continue to go from strength to strength under his direction. The safety of our local community is of paramount importance and I look forward to working together to ensure we maintain our reputation as being one of the best fire and rescue services in the country.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank current Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling for what he has achieved during his time in post and the commitment that he has shown to Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and the community of Tyne and Wear.”