Fire service in Merton set for a new borough commander

Wimbledon Guardian: Old and new: Rick Ogden, left, hands over control to new borough commander Neil Withers in July Old and new: Rick Ogden, left, hands over control to new borough commander Neil Withers in July

Merton's fire brigade is set to welcome a new borough commander.

Neil Withers, 51, will take on his first borough command after spending 10 years as a training and curriculum manager for the London Fire Brigade.

He replaces Rick Ogden, 33, who is leaving to run Lambeth after 16 months in Merton.

Mr Withers, from Muswell Hill, said: "All of my career up to now has been north London and it will be my first time as a commander.

"Borough commander is an interesting role and it's more about the community, it's nice to get back to the sharp end and community support again."

He said his priorities will be continuing Merton partnerships, installing domestic sprinklers in existing and new-build properties and continuing work on preventing road traffic collisions.

Looking back on his time in Merton, Mr Ogden said a challenge has been a number of serious road accidents he'd like to see a reduction in.

He is particularly proud of delivering a project with Merton public health training all firefighters in the borough on smoking and alcohol last summer, which was nominated for a national award.

He said: "Highlights have included delivering the project with Merton public health that trained all firefighters in the borough on smoking, drinking and alcohol last summer, attending the national awards in Whitehall because it was nominated and road traffic collision demonstrations that I have done."

Mr Withers will move to Wimbledon fire station on Tuesday, July 1.

He chose not to comment on strategy for dealing with future firefighter strikes over pensions.

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