Names of firefighters in Downham Market will never be forgotten

Day 3 of the Downham Market Fire Station fire - Fire investigators search through wreckage of the building to find the cause - Watch manager Kim Scotney (left) with firefighter Jay Coffill with the salvaged long service names board. Picture: Matthew Usher. Day 3 of the Downham Market Fire Station fire - Fire investigators search through wreckage of the building to find the cause - Watch manager Kim Scotney (left) with firefighter Jay Coffill with the salvaged long service names board. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Friday, March 14, 2014
9:08 AM

Memories of brave firefighters who served their town for generations live on despite its current fire station being destroyed by a devastating fire.

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There were fears the honours board at Downham Market fire station was destroyed by the blaze which tore through the building in the early hours of Tuesday.

But the board - featuring the names of 19 firefighters and officers - has now been salvaged intact from the wreckage of the building.

Firefighters at Downham Market have spoken of their joy at saving the board, which contains the names of all the officers who have served more than 20 years in the town.

The board was kept at the old Downham fire station in Priory Road before it was moved to the new station in Ryston Close in 2006.

Firefighters feared it had gone up in flames along with a year-old fire engine and all of its equipment in Tuesday’s blaze.

But Downham watch manager Kim Scotney, whose name is on the board, in recognition of his 28 years’ service, said it had been saved.

He said: “The board was kept on the wall in the lecture room at the station, so it was furthest away from the fire, and that’s why it was saved. There is some smoke damage to it and a bit of charring, but nothing that cannot be sorted out.”

He added: “Any firefighter or officer who has served more than 20 years in Downham has his name on the board.

“It’s been kept since the early 1950s and was at the old fire station in Downham before we moved here in 2006. We did not want the names on the board to ever be forgotten, and that was why we were so keen to save it.”

He said the retained firefighters at Downham had still not come to terms with the blaze, which started just after midnight on Tuesday morning.

He added: “You cannot comprehend what has happened. We go out to people’s houses that are on fire and when you’ve done your bit it’s over, but when it happens to your own station it’s different.”

Downham firefighter Jay Coffill, who also works in property services in the town, added: “We are all gutted. The station has been like a second home to us.”

Mr Scotney, who also works as a firefighter for the Ministry of Defence, said he lost personal items in the blaze, including fire certificates going back nearly 30 years and old photographs of colleagues, which could not be replaced.

Mr Coffill, who has only been a firefighter for 12 months, said he was getting his lost certificates replaced.

Derek Sim, Downham station manager, said Hawkins Forensic investigators from Cambridge were looking into the cause of the blaze, working alongside Norfolk and Cambridgeshire fire services.

Brian Walshe, the service’s fire investigator for Norfolk, said the investigation into the cause and origins of the blaze could take up to 48 hours.

As reported, the Downham crew had rushed to a “shout” at about 12.10am to find their fire station ablaze. Eight fire crews attended the fire, which appeared to have started in or near the fire appliance.

The fire service has contacted the manufacturer of the destroyed fire engine as a matter of routine, to check if there were any faults with it. It has also emerged that the station did not have a sprinkler system.

Current estimates on a replacement like-for-like fire station is about £1.5m, plus the cost of the replacement appliance (worth about £280,000 including equipment).

Downham fire crews are temporarily based at the neighbouring police station, although it has been suggested that the two emergency services could later join forces at one building in the town.

A replacement fire engine was immediately sent to replace the appliance destroyed in the blaze, along with new suits for its retained crew, who also lost protective clothing and equipment in the fire.

The blaze has not stopped Downham fire crew’s charity car wash from going ahead.

It was going to take place at the fire station tomorrow, but will now be held, from 10am to 4pm, at Sovereign Way (next to the ambulance station) in Trafalgar industrial estate, Downham Market. It will raise money for the Fire Fighters’ Charity. There will also be charity buckets at the tills in Tesco’s Downham, also for the FFC.

Are you related to one of the people on the board? Do you want to tell us that person’s story? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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