Berkhamsted Group | 10.01.2017

Promotion within the Fire Service for our caretaker Les

Promotion within the Fire Service for our caretaker Les

Wearing his other hat: Les earns promotion to Watch Commander with Berkhamsted Fire and Rescue Service.   

Les Bushell is always on call. As a caretaker at Berkhamsted School he responds to all sorts of jobs within the Estates Department.  As a firefighter his pager could go off at any moment, day or night, requiring him to get to the station and be on route to an emergency within four minutes.

In a school the size of Berkhamsted, where a stroll from a classroom to the car park could easily take that amount of time, Les is needed to down tools, travel to the Fire Station on Castle Street and get ready for the emergency in just 240 seconds. He repeats this for up to 20 calls per month.  

If you ever see a member of staff sprinting down Kings Road it may well be Les. Whether he is setting up the hall for an event at Kings Campus or attending to a job at the boarding house, his response time could be the difference between life and death. 


Les joined the Fire Service in 2003 and joined Berkhamsted School four years later. Now donning the prestigious white helmet, his promotion to Watch Commander makes him responsible for 10 fellow firefighters. He manages their availability, training, holidays, and oversees each emergency response. 

Undoubtedly, Les is providing a valuable service to the local community with the Fire Service, at the same time supporting an Estates team who work tirelessly to provide the perfect environment for pupils of Berkhamsted School to study and to achieve their potential.

Les said “I get great satisfaction out of both my jobs, and there are many ways the experiences with the Fire Service help with my work at Berkhamsted.

“I’m always prepared to take an adaptable approach to work. At a road traffic accident, for example, ‘Plan A’ could be to cut the roof off to free the injured party, but there are so many variables you always need a Plan B and C. None of this is in writing, it requires thinking on the spot and every small decision you make will affect the outcome. 

“I am fully supportive of the education work the school do in partnership with the Fire Service. Last term Sixth Form organised a very impactful session for students to learn about road safety.  In December Year 1 enjoyed a visit from Berkhamsted Fire Station, and we gave them the chance to sit in the fire engine and see the equipment works.  Even at such a young age, there’s an important message for them to take home after the fun but constructive experience.”

When asked if the pupils and staff should feel extra safe by having a full time firefighter on site Les said: “Berkhamsted School take a very thorough approach to fire safety, and we’ve dedicated members of staff trained to lead on this. Perhaps having an experienced firefighter on site provides an extra level of security, as I’m always on the look out to find new ways the School can further improve their practice.”

Fellow estates worker James Smillie will become the second Berkhamsted School member of staff to join the Fire Service, when he starts in February. Rono Wellington, previously a media technician for the school has since gone on to serve full time in Hemel Hempstead.

Estates Director Rob Grant said “Berkhamsted School is very proud of Les’ achievements and we are always happy to support members of the Berkhamsted School family in providing help and support to the wider community of Berkhamsted.”

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