The Chief Fire Officer of Mid and West Wales is to retire later this month, it has been announced.

Richard Smith announced his retirement and the end of his 35-year career today (Monday) and he will leave on March 31st.

Mid and West Wales Fire Authority Chairman Roy Llewellyn said that it was considered timely to accept the Chief’s intention to retire as the service began a major change programme.

Mr Llewellyn added: "Chief Fire Officer Smith has had a long and illustrious career in the Fire Service, moving to Mid and West Wales as Deputy Chief in 2003 and becoming Chief in June 2008.

"He has served the communities here in mid and west Wales with distinction and has led the service through some very challenging times.

"We are grateful for his leadership, which has established this service to be one of the best performing in the United Kingdom. Now is an opportune time to appoint a new person to lead the Service and build upon his outstanding success.”

Mr Smith said: "My decision to retire from the fire service to pursue other challenges has not been taken lightly.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my career and feel immensely proud of my achievements here in Mid and West Wales as both Deputy Chief and then Chief Fire Officer.

" As the organisation enters a new five-year strategic planning cycle and is intending to undertake an imminent senior officer structural review, I feel that now is the right time to make way for someone new.

"I am immensely proud to have led this fire service for the past five and a half years and I wish all of the staff and elected members well for the future.’

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Paul Bates will be appointed as Temporary Chief Fire Officer for a six-week period whilst the service advertises for a permanent Chief Fire Officer, with interviews taking place in early May.