TOMORROW marks the end of an era for Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, as the flag comes down for the last time at the County HQ in Potterne.

The service will now be combined with that of Dorset to form the new Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The Wiltshire FRS flag will be lowered for the last time following the final meeting of Wiltshire & Swindon Combined Fire Authority.

For Wiltshire’s 24 fire stations, the only visible change will only be the new name and badge on vehicles and new signs on the buildings, but there is also a new face at the helm as Darran Gunter, formerly chief fire officer of Dorset, formally steps into the top spot.

He and his senior leadership team will now be based at the new HQ in Salisbury, which forms part of the Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre owned by Wiltshire Council.

The former headquarters buildings in Potterne and Poundbury in Dorset will continue to be used as area offices.

A new joint service control centre was opened in Potterne in August 2015 and has been dealing with 999 calls for both counties since that time.

As well as being the end of Wiltshire FRS as a standalone organisation, today also marks the retirement of Wiltshire's Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones after a 37-year career.

Simon joined Wiltshire FRS as a probationer firefighter in Salisbury in 1979 and has served his whole career in the county, making him one of very few chief fire officers to rise up through the ranks in the one service.

Mr Routh-Jones said: “I am immensely proud of my staff for embracing the challenge and bringing us to the cusp of a new service in less than two and a half years.

"We have done everything possible to secure the high level of emergency response, prevention activity and fire safety work that local people rightly expect from us.

"Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service has been proud to protect local communities for 68 years, and that exemplary support will continue with the new organisation.

“While I am obviously sad that my time as chief fire officer is ending, it has been a great privilege to be at the helm of this fantastic organisation for the last five years.

"My very best wishes go to everyone within the new Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, and my grateful thanks go to everyone who has supported me throughout my career. It really has been an honour to serve the communities of Wiltshire and Swindon.”

The Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority will meet on Friday, when a new chairman will be elected.

CFO Gunter said: “This is an historic day for the fire and rescue services in Dorset and Wiltshire. We have brought together two small organisations, both of which had a fine history of partnership working and developing innovative ideas for the benefit of their communities.

"By combining, we forecast making annual savings in excess of £6 million, and we are far better placed to manage the continuing challenges of reduced Government funding."