Ceri Sumner has been appointed as the new Director of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.

The appointment follows existing Interim Chief Fire Officer Tim Edwards’s announcement of his intention to retire from the service at the end of the summer.

Ceri Sumner said: “I’m delighted to be appointed as Director of Norfolk Fire and Rescue. It is a privilege to lead such a crucial, well -regarded service of dedicated professionals, who have shown such courage and skill in the face of recent wildfires. I have over 25 years experience spanning the private and public sector that will bring a different perspective to the service. I’ll be focusing on working effectively with teams to ensure we address points raised in the recent inspection report, as well as continuing the collaboration with other emergency services in protecting Norfolk’s residents and businesses.”

Ceri Sumner joined Norfolk County Council in 2011, having previously worked with a number of organisations including BAA and Centrica, and currently holds the role of Director of Community, Information and Learning, which includes delivering services such as Trading Standards, Customer Services, Norfolk Libraries and Adult Education. Ceri has led a number of projects within the County Council, including urgent response work such as leading the community response work during the Covid 19 pandemic, which involved providing self-isolation support, food distribution and financial hardship support to those who tested positive for Covid, as well as coordinating the county’s involvement in the ongoing Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The new role provides overall leadership for Norfolk’s Fire and Rescue Service, ensuring effective delivery across the County and developing its relationships with the broader emergency and other public services. Unlike a Chief Fire Officer, the Director is not a trained firefighter nor expected to carry out frontline firefighting or incident command. Similar models are in place in other Fire Services across the country, including in Kent and Hertfordshire.

Interim Chief Fire Officer Tim Edwards said: “After 34 years with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, I’ve seen many incidents and served alongside many truly remarkable people. It has been a privilege to serve as Interim Chief Fire Officer, and I’d like to thank my colleagues for all their support and hard work. I know the service is now in safe hands and pass to Ceri an exceptional team to help protect Norfolk.”

Mr Edwards joined Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service at the age of 16 in 1988 and served on various watches as an operational firefighter before rising up the ranks, serving first as Assistant Chief Fire officer, from November 2019, before being appointed Interim Chief Fire Officer in February this year following the announcement of predecessor Stuart Ruff’s retirement. Most recently Mr Edwards led the Fire Service’s response to last month’s heatwave and wildfires.

Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships, Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, said: “The outpouring of support for the Fire Service we have seen over recent weeks shows how well regarded Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is, and I want to thank Tim for all the hard work he has done over the past six months to maintain the service’s hard earned and well deserved reputation.

“I also want to congratulate Ceri on her appointment: the work I’ve seen Ceri do over the past few years, taking on challenges during Covid 19 such as supporting the most vulnerable and moving Adult Learning online in the face of lockdown restrictions, then working earlier this year to put in place the structures that have brought over 1,000 Ukrainians fleeing war into our county, shows that she has the skills and determination to take on this new role.”

Norfolk County Council’s Head of Paid Service Tom McCabe said: “Congratulations to Ceri on her appointment: our Fire Service is on the literal frontline when it comes to a range of incidents, not just fires and flooding but water rescue, assisting our partners at road traffic collisions and even responding to the pandemic. Leading the service can be demanding, but having worked with Ceri I know she is well equipped to meet the challenge and be a great success in her new role.

“I’d also like to thank Tim for stepping in as Interim Chief Fire Officer: it’s the final achievement of a remarkable career, dedicated to Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, and Tim has done a great job in very challenging circumstances as our county faced unprecedent levels of wildfires over the last month.”

Ceri Sumner will take on the role of Director of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service from 5th September.