THE chief fire officer for Hampshire has announced that he will retire at the end of this year, after a decade in the role.

Chief Officer John Bonney, who joined Hampshire Fire and Rescue 13 years ago, told the organisation’s 1,800 staff that he will step down on December 31, after 10 years in the top job.

Mr Bonney, who was born in Manchester and joined London Fire Brigade in 1981, said: “2014 marks my 10th year as chief officer, and having served at the helm for a decade, I’ve decided it is now timely for me to step down from what is, by any measure, the best job in the British fire service.”

He added: "I am proud to have led a service populated throughout by people absolutely dedicated to what we do and who, as a matter of routine, go far beyond what is asked of them."

In a message to staff, Mr Bonney said: "Most of all, it has been a privilege to work with all of you and lead this marvellous organisation, an organisation that has become one of the most respected and high performing services in the UK.

"You have inspired me and for 10 years made me the most privileged chief officer anywhere in the country, and can I thank each of you for that."

Mr Bonney’s announcement gives Hampshire Fire Authority time to appoint his successor to ensure a smooth handover of responsibility at the turn of the year.

Hampshire Fire Authority Chairman Royston Smith said: "John retires from his position as chief with our heartfelt thanks as an authority for the huge impact he has made as our top fire officer.

"John’s inspirational leadership has seen Hampshire gain a clear position as one of the leading fire and rescue services in the country.

"He will be greatly missed and he leaves an absolutely massive legacy as a very effective and hugely respected chief officer.

"The work of making Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service stronger, and keeping the people of Hampshire safer, of course continues. And so we thank John for allowing us the time and space to appoint his successor and to ensure HFRS continues to move forward and offer the very best service to people across the county."