London Fire Brigade

London Fire Brigade Director of Operations Retires after 32 years

30 March 2017

The love of a good woman meant the marines' loss was our gain when Dave Brown decided to join the fire service.

"I met my future wife Kim and I knew I didn't want to be away from her for long periods," Dave said. "So I changed my plan of joining the armed forces and instead applied for the fire brigade."

Reduction in fires, injuries and deaths

It took the East End boy two years to join us and he started training on 25 March 1985. Now just over 32 years to the day, our Director of Operations is set to leave the organisation.

As he prepares to leave, Dave says he was especially pleased to see a big reduction in fires three decades on.

"I've been in my current role for 12 years and we've seen a massive reduction in fires, fire deaths and injuries.

"I am immensely proud of introducing a structure around firefighters visiting homes and giving vital fire safety advice.

"It was widely believed that when we first started out we couldn't reach the target of 35,000 home fire safety visits a year but last year we visited 85,000 homes.

"Prevention work is now part and parcel of the role of a firefighter and those visits undoubtedly save lives."

During Dave's time in role fires have nearly halved from 39,179 in 2005/6 to 20,770 in 2015/16 and fire deaths are down 20 per cent for the same period. Although a lot has changed during his time at the Brigade some things remain the same.

When the whistle blows the game is the same

"It's a little like football," Dave, 52 explains. "More sponsorship, bigger grounds, better training but when the whistle blows the game is the same. A fire will always be a fire."

Dave's love of Arsenal is evident and like Arsene Wenger he says: "Having been in role for so long, I can't say that I wasn't there when the key important decisions were taken. Regardless of how they turned out."

Dave's career started at Plaistow on red watch before moves to Poplar and Kingsland. He moved into training recruits before becoming an Assistant Divisional Officer at Hornsey, Silvertown and Millwall.

Dave said: "I could never have imagined that I'd end my career in charge of how the Brigade operates on a day to-day-basis.

"I only ever looked one rung up the ladder at a time. I was delighted though when I was appointed to the role of Borough Commander in Tower Hamlets. Although it was also a particularly low period in my career when the borough tragically lost firefighters Bill Faust and Adam Meere at a fire in 2004."

Dave is very keen on broadening the role of firefighter and is passionate about co-responding.

"I started a trial back in 2004, which sadly didn't progress," Dave says. "We are much closer today with four boroughs currently running a new trial and I hope that one day we'll see London firefighters responding to more medical emergencies and ultimately saving more lives."

Firm but fair

Dave was in charge of the large fire at the Royal Marsden Hospital  in 2008 and part of the senior team at the 40 fire engine blaze in Dagenham not far from the Olympic Stadium on the evening of the London 2012 closing ceremony.

He played a vital strategic role during the London Bombings and in the London Riots and says his job would be impossible without the hard work of the many teams that make up the operations Directorate.

"I've never dreaded coming into work and on the whole it has been very positive. I will miss the people I've worked with the most

"I've often told the senior officers I've managed that our achievements couldn’t have happened without them and their people.

"My role is often like being the conductor in an orchestra who pulls together all the various groups to make one harmonious team. I'm proud of them all and am extremely grateful for their hard work.

He laughs heartily when asked how other people would describe him. "Firm but fair," Dave admits. "I can be a hard task master but if people worked hard for me then I’d work doubly hard for them."

Dave hopes to use his experiences especially in lecturing and change management in the next chapter of his career.

He said: "My wife Kim and children Ellie and Sam have been extremely supportive throughout my time at the Brigade and I'd like to get a bit more work life balance into my life.

"I plan to do some travelling but I’m certainly not ready for the pipe and slippers just yet."