Crew Manager Paul Fletcher of Newport Fire Station, Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, collapsed during a call to Camp Hill Prison on 24 August 2009 and passed away a short while later in hospital, aged 39.
Throughout the course of researching the Island's fire service history it's very easy to forget that the people I am discovering and writing about are real people, with families, loved ones, friends, a life of aspirations and ideals, until of course you are confronted with the loss, prematurely, of one you knew and respected so sincerely.
Paul, who had previously served in the Police force, was admired locally and in much wider circles. I didn't know him intimately, but I'd had sufficient reason to engage with him on occasion to appreciate a character and humility that more than matched his physical presence. His passing was and will remain a devastating factor in the lives of his wife, his two young children and his parents all of whom I've come to know through their charitable efforts in Paul's name since that terrible day.
At the time the Island's Chief Fire Officer Paul Street was quoted in the Press; Paul cared passionately about the service and about serving Island residents. He distinguished himself in several areas, notably training, where his work was of such high quality that earlier this year he received the GO Union Learning Representative of the Year award. In addition Paul played an active role in the rapid improvement of the service and was enthusiastic about continuing that improvement through the Model for Change project. Paul was also very active and highly successful in working with the Fire Brigades Union nationally, regionally and locally starting as brigade secretary and moving on to the post of regional chairman. Paul will be sadly missed as both a colleague and a friend.
Paul's funeral on Wednesday 9 September was attended by massed firefighters, both of the Isle of Wight and the mainland; serving and retired in addition to members of the other services with whom he had connections and had made a firm friendship. It is a day when I too stood solemnly alongside my colleagues in silent reflection and respect for a man who epitomised the very best of the fire and rescue service.
Rest in peace Crew Manager Fletcher.