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Legendary firefighter retires

CELEBRATED: Carl St Paul, centre, with his wife and daughter as he looks forward to retirement

A FIRE STATION manager who has championed equality across the London Fire Brigade throughout his 30-year career is retiring.

It was an interview with a London-based African-Caribbean firefighter that first made Carl St Paul believe he could do the job after working as a bus driver and a mechanic.

The 58-year-old said: “I listened to the interview with this firefighter who was retiring and he was just saying he had had the most wonderful time in the job and it sounded really exciting.

“I applied after seeing an advert in a newspaper which featured a black firefighter and I could relate to that.”

Carl joined North Kensington as a firefighter in 1987 when he was 28 and stayed there for 13 years before spending three and a half years as part of the Training to Succeed pilot project which delivered equality training across the Brigade.

Stints as crew manager at Hayes and Ruislip followed before a number of roles in other departments across the Brigade.

In 2007, Carl qualified as a station manager, serving at stations including Belsize, Euston, Acton and Ealing, with his final role as senior fire safety officer for the north west area based in Wembley.

In addition to all his operational roles, Carl has worked tirelessly to make fire and rescue services across the UK and abroad more inclusive for black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

After numerous conversations in his early years as a firefighter with black colleagues who felt they were a target for jokes and derogatory comments, he started a support group which began to meet regularly.

From this, he went on to be the founder member of what is now known as the Black and Ethnic Minority (B&EMM) support group for UK fire services and has worked in partnership with the FBU to drive recruitment in the BAME community and women. He has also spoken abroad on the topic.

He said: “Nobody joins to be a black firefighter. They join to be a firefighter and we needed to do something to support each other.”

The father-of-one has been to many notable incidents, including the Paddington rail crash in 1999 which killed 31 people and a fire at Hammersmith Hospital in 1990. He also recalls his first job was to rescue a young boy with his head stuck in a railing and he was distracting him while the rest of the crew freed him.

He said: “When they had released him he turned round and gave me the biggest hug and I was not expecting that. I just started crying because of the emotion of it and I thought I was in trouble – it was my first job and I was in tears. But 30 years later I’m still doing the job."

“I will miss the job, I’ve met some wonderful people, but it’s been over half my life and all good things have to come to an end. It’s about moving forward as opposed to looking back.”

Carl plans to spend his retirement travelling, and hopes to see the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. He is also a magistrate and will continue with that role.

Brigade watch manager and FBU national secretary for B&EMM, Micky Nicholas, said: “Carl was the first B&EMM union official. His input was invaluable and enabled the Brigade to achieve early positive outcomes.

“For many years, Carl has been synonymous with progressive actions to increase our workforce demographics. He can truly be described as a role model for our BAME operational staff – and others.

“His career and his achievements are held in the highest esteem by all who know him and have worked with him.”

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