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Chief Fire Officer awarded King’s Fire Service Medal in New Year’s Honours List

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service’s (MFRS) Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Phil Garrigan OBE has been recognised in this year’s New Year Honours List for 2024, receiving the prestigious award of the King’s Fire Service Medal (KFSM).

The King’s Honours list was announced in The Gazette, the official newspaper of the Crown. A great honour in the Fire & Rescue community, the KFSM is awarded for distinguished service or gallantry.

Phil has had a long and distinguished career in the Fire & Rescue Service, having joined Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service in 1990 – working in some of Merseyside’s most vulnerable and deprived communities. With this he brings a strong community focus to the Service, recognising the unique position of trust and respect in which the Fire & Rescue Service is held. He uses this standing in the community, alongside the professionalism of Merseyside FRS staff, to tackle the real underlying factors which affect risk in Merseyside’s communities.

His vision, drive and ambition has seen Merseyside achieve the lowest ever number of fire deaths on record, and he has instilled a real sense of investment in the communities of Merseyside within his teams.

CFO Garrigan is also the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) Vice Chair and Lead for the Fire & Rescue Service with regard to its work with children and young people; transforming hundreds of lives across the UK through his leadership.

In 2013, Phil rebuilt the UK Fire Cadet movement, a national uniformed youth organisation delivered through all Fire & Rescue Services across the UK. Thousands of children are now Fire Cadets, with 1000 volunteers supporting them and an amazing 45,000 hours of positive social action under their belts. The young people involved have developed skills for life, learning and future employment, whilst acting as a positive force in their own communities.

Phil is also a Trustee at LFC Foundation; Rainbow Education Multi Academy Trust and Cash for Kids Charity, as well as a Board Member at Wirral Youth Zone and the Chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. The breadth of his work gives him an almost unique understanding of the sector.

After taking on the role of Chief Fire Officer in 2017 he bucked the trend of cuts to the Fire & Rescue Services nationally and found innovative ways to recruit new firefighters and increase the number of fire engines available, ensuring the continued safety of the people of Merseyside.

In a national capacity Phil provides strategic advice to Government; he and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service coordinate the deployment of national fire and rescue service resources to large scale incidents across the UK. As a result, he has overseen a number of national incidents recently, including leading the Fire & Rescue Service’s response to COVID-19 as the National Fire Gold Commander, as part of his NFCC work. His innovative and effective management of resources ensured Fire & Rescue Services across the UK found the support they needed during this challenging time.

Since taking on the role of Chief Fire Officer he has revised the governance of the Service and introduced a People Plan which reflects his own inclusive management style, involving all sections of the Service in the decision-making process.

Phil also led the Service through successive inspections by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), in 2018, 2021, and 2023 respectively.

In 2018, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) achieved two ’Outstanding’ ratings; the only Fire & Rescue Service in the country to do so. These, amongst other factors, led to the Service receiving the highest civic honour; the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.

Following significant progress in 2021, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service achieved three ’Outstanding’ ratings in 2023; Outstanding at preventing fires and other risks, responding to major and multi-agency incidents, and making best use of resources.

MFRS was highly commended for its innovative and targeted prevention work, its response to major incidents and for making the best use of its resources to best serve the public of Merseyside.

Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan said:

“I am very humbled to receive this honour and recognise that it is very much down to the incredible people I work with; people put their lives on the line to ensure the safety and well-being of others; people who face dangerous and unpredictable situations, often risking their own lives to save others; people who get up early and go home late to ensure that our firefighters are safe and our control room team, prevention staff and protection officers can protect the public as only they can.

“This honour is down to their contribution –their courage and their compassion. It is also a reflection on the unfaltering support I have received from Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority, they ensured we have developed a national and international reputation – a reputation for making a real difference in the lives of those people we have the privilege to serve.

“Nowhere is this more evident than in our response to the terror attack on the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, the earthquakes in Turkey and Morocco and the war in Ukraine where we coordinated the delivery of over 70 UK fire engines into the most war-torn parts of the country.

“We are a Service that genuinely cares and is unswerving in its commitment to tackle inequality in every aspect of our work. I don’t think you can ask for much more than that.

“Whilst the award of the King’s Fire Service Medal (KFSM) is a great personal achievement and one that I will cherish, it is the people I work with and what we have delivered together that I am most proud of. Nothing gets in our way.

“I am also incredibly grateful to my wife Michelle for allowing me the opportunities in work that many other people aren’t afforded. I know my own limitations and I know that they are offset by hard work, accessibility, and unswerving commitment to the people of Merseyside, all of which can come at a cost unless you have someone so understanding as my wife by your side.”

Cllr Les Byrom, the Chair of the Fire Authority said:

“The awarding of the King’s Fire Service Medal (KFSM) to our Chief Fire Officer is richly deserved and is testimony to his hard work and tenacity.

“His vision, innovation and unswerving commitment to Merseyside has seen the Authority re-invest in the frontline for the first time in many years and his courage both locally and nationally has seen Merseyside influence at the highest levels in Government, none more so than when leading the sector through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are incredibly lucky to have someone with his integrity and compassion lead our Fire & Rescue Service. The Authority are thrilled by the announcement.”