Fire leaders recognised by King in his first New Year’s Honours

The work of two West Yorkshire fire officers to improve fire safety standards and firefighting nationally following the devastating Grenfell tragedy five years ago, has been given national recognition.

Chris Kemp and John Roberts are both recognised in the New Year’s Honours list

The duo are senior members of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) and they have been recognised for their contribution at both a local and national level in the prestigious New Year’s Honours list announced by Buckingham Palace today (Saturday).

Reforms to fire safety were introduced earlier this year by the Government to strengthen fire and rescue services, putting most of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations into law.

Senior Fire Protection Manager Chris Kemp has played an instrumental part in bringing these measures to fruition.

He is a leading authority for the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and as a result he has now been given one of the highest accolades in the country – the King’s Fire Service Medal.

Chief Fire Officer (CFO) John Roberts has also been awarded with the King’s Fire Service Medal. The medal is bestowed on those who have displayed distinguished service or gallantry and is the highest award of its kind a serving fire officer, or fire staff, can receive.

CFO Roberts is a member of the NFCC National Operations Committee and has led a significant project which has resulted in the development of revisions to firefighting tactics in tall buildings. He is the NFCC Lead Officer for Command and Control and chairs the National Operational Effectiveness Working Group. He is also a member of the NFCC National Strategic Advisor Team who support fire and rescue services in the event of major incidents.

As CFO he leads a service which has been recognised as ‘Good’ in all areas by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services in its two most recent inspections, placing it in the group of top performing fire and rescue services in the country.

The honours are the first to be presented in the new King’s name, following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year. It is possible these medals will be presented by King Charles III himself at a ceremony later this year, following his coronation.

Chair of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority Cllr Darren O’Donovan said: “Our fire and rescue service has a proud tradition of not only being a high performing service for the communities of West Yorkshire, but also for working and influencing at a national level. The last year has once again presented new challenges for all fire and rescue service personnel across the country, so it is fantastic to see our staff here in West Yorkshire recognised for their hard work and dedication in supporting their local communities and fellow colleagues.

“The fact that both our Chief Fire Officer and our Senior Fire Protection Manager have been recognised with national honours is a tribute to them as individuals and serves to further reinforce what a high performing service West Yorkshire is. On behalf of everyone at the Authority, I send my warm congratulations to both John and Chris and wholehearted thanks to all.”

CFO Roberts added: “I am delighted to receive the King’s Fire Service Medal and I am incredibly pleased that my colleague Chris has also been recognised for the important work he is doing. This award is recognition not just for me, but for all the people I work with as we continue to make West Yorkshire safer.”

Chris has been with WYFRS for 18 years working his way up from a fire safety inspector to head of service.

He said: “Getting this award really is something else. I would never have expected I would be getting something like this, it truly is an honour. I am just one person working in a big team to bring these hugely important fire standards in, so it is great for this work to be recognised in this way.

“The NFCC has a key role to play in advising and delivering on future reform and improvements. The commencement of the Fire Safety Act and the bringing forward of the new regulations are important steps forward in strengthening the Fire Safety Order and improving fire safety within premises, including here in West Yorkshire, ultimately keeping everyone safer.”

Chris sits on the NFCC’s Protection and Business Safety Scrutiny Committee where he is the lead expert on safe storage of petroleum and explosives. The remit of the committee is to improve the provision of a standardised approach to protection policy, training, and development to support fire and rescue services and businesses. By providing additional support and guidance to businesses and continuing to improve engagement, regulation and enforcement, the committee aims to improve safety and support economic development and growth.

The committee is playing a key role in all the work associated with the Building Safety Programme and Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt since the fire at Grenfell Tower. This includes providing a national fire service response to the protection related recommendations from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Public Inquiry and a look forward to Phase 2.

The new measures will help strengthen the emergency services and ensure people feel safer in their homes and places of work. A number of the fire standards are already in place, with more consultations coming in the new year, as set out in the Government’s recent Fire Reform White Paper. The changes include the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021 which will make sure all blocks of flats are properly assessed for fire safety risks, and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.

The new reforms include ensuring those who are responsible for multi-occupied residential buildings prepare for legislation that will commence next month. All responsible persons must manage and reduce the risk of fire for the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows, and entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts.

More information for local responsible persons can be found here: