Of the three fire stations in Tandridge (Lingfield and Oxted being the others), Godstone is unique on two counts. Firstly, it is the only one with a wholetime crew, meaning it is manned round the clock.
Simon Capel is White Watch’s crew commander:
“Godstone has four watches: Red, White, Green and Blue. Each is made up of five staff: a watch commander, a crew commander and three firefighters.”
Secondly, it is the base for a number of specialist vehicles. Alongside the standard fire appliance, there’s also a water carrier, holding 18,000 litres, and a high-volume pump with a 3km hose, that can be plugged into lakes and reservoirs and used to put out wildfires or remove flood water.
While fires are obviously a core part of what Surrey Fire & Rescue Service deals with (Tandridge crews attended 226 in 2022/23) – along with road traffic collisions, floodings, rescues and situations involving hazardous materials – Simon explains the concept that underpins everything its firefighters do is ‘community’.
“Getting out in our community, educating people about preventing – and dealing with – emergencies and supporting vulnerable residents, is our priority. We visit schools, hold open days and work with partners to identify those who would benefit from a Safe and Well visit, where we give fire safety advice and, if necessary, install free equipment, such as carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms. We also do Business Safe and Well visits, where we help employers understand their responsibilities for keeping people safe from fire.”
Simon says the service is constantly evolving to ensure its firefighters’ wellbeing:
“For example, we now know that sleep deprivation is one of the biggest causes of heat illness, so getting a good night’s sleep is vital. And we’ve introduced Critical Incident Stress Debriefs so we can talk through traumatic incidents we’ve attended. There’s also a big external support network in place if we need further help.”
Tandridge borough commander Paul Bowyer oversees all three stations, and is responsible for the Borough Plan:
“This is a public document which identifies risks in the district, and sets out our action plan, demonstrating how we’ll meet the needs of residents and businesses.”