Release date: 12 August 2021
Station Manager who has served communities right across the county is bidding a fond farewell after 27 years of service.
The armed incident at Crawley College and the fire at Crawley Hospital are just some of the incidents Lee Walton has attended over the years.
Lee began his career with Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, joining the service as a Reigate firefighter in January 1994.
He then transferred over the border and joined West Sussex as a Leading Firefighter in 2002. Originally based at Horley Fire Station, he moved across to Crawley the following year. Since then, Lee has progressed up the ranks, spending six years as a Watch Manager at Crawley, before becoming a Station Manager in 2018 – overseeing stations such as Chichester, East Grinstead and Billingshurst.
During the pandemic he also spent some time as a Group Manager, managing the services operational activities.
Reflecting on his most memorable incidents, Lee said: “The more recent incidents are the ones that spring to mind. The Crawley College incident earlier this year was by far the busiest incident I have ever dealt with. I was the duty officer that day and responded to over 80 calls in a two-hour period, liaising with partner agencies – such as the police - and coordinating our response.
“However, back in 2012 there was a fire on the sixth floor of Crawley Hospital, and we had to evacuate over 200 people from the building. There were patients being operated on, mothers in labour, and as the first manager on scene, coordinating the evacuation was surreal.”
Lee’s leadership skills were recognised when he was nominated for a Manager of the Year award at West Sussex County Council’s annual award ceremony in 2018.
“Ending my career at Crawley, the place where I started my journey in West Sussex, is a huge honour. I have loved my time here and being able to attend incidents with my old Watches, but now as their Station Manager, has meant a lot to me.
“When I think back to when I first joined, I wouldn’t like to say the service has ‘changed’, as change can often scare people, but it has definitely modernised -whether it be through the community work we now carry out, the technology we use or the uniform we wear. Gone are the days of cork helmets and leather gloves!”
Chief Fire Officer, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, said: “Lee has dedicated his life to supporting his communities – not only through the fire service but during his early career in the navy.
“I’m positive that his proactive ‘can-do’ attitude has inspired many within the service and I have no doubt that his enthusiasm will see him lead a healthy and happy retirement, whatever that may entail.”