TWO fire services bordering the Solent have combined to form a new organisation.

The new Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) will work across 61 stations, keeping nearly two million people safe.

Bosses say the new organisation will reap the benefits that working together across the Solent have already highlighted.

Neil Odin is the chief fire officer for HIWFRS, as he was for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.

Mr Odin said: "This is an historic day for the fire service.

“Ever since it was decided we would explore combination an incredible amount of work has been undertaken by our people working together across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, as well as our elected members who sat on the Shadow Authority.

“I would like to pay personal tribute to the work of our partners within the Isle of Wight Council, whose support and efforts towards the combination was absolutely vital.

"We wouldn’t have reached this landmark without the collaboration and professionalism shown by their councillors and teams.”

The decision to combine the two organisations will see a solely fire-focused authority govern the Isle of Wight’s fire service for the first time.

Deputy chief fire officer Steve Apter said: “This is a momentous point in the history of the fire service across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as our two organisations embark on our continued mission to make life safer for those in our communities.

“Every fire station remains open, every fire engine remains available.

"We are now set to commence an exciting and innovative programme of investment across our sites, equipment and fleet ensuring our organisation continues to deliver and improve upon the exceptional service we provide to the people of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”

The new Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Authority will govern the organisation.

It was signed off by the Home Office in early 2020 and will be made up of representatives from Hampshire County Council, Isle of Wight Council, Portsmouth City Council and Southampton City Council.

Staff were consulted to ensure they understood - and were prepared for - the transfer to the new employer.

A HIWFRS spokesperson said: "The way in which fire engines respond across both Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will not change and no stations will be closing.

"Instead, sites on both sides of the water will feel the benefits of an estate investment programme as well as improvements that will see our firefighters use modern technology."