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After 30 years in the fire service West Norfolk says goodbye and thank you to station manager Bob Ayres

PUBLISHED: 10:21 23 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:21 23 December 2018

Station manager Bob Ayres is retiring from the service after 30 years. Photo: Emily Prince

Station manager Bob Ayres is retiring from the service after 30 years. Photo: Emily Prince

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West Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service bid a fond farewell to one of their own after 30 years of service.

Bob Ayres investigates the cause of a fire that caused damage to a house on Westfields by fire in Tilney St Lawrence. Picture: Matthew Usher.Bob Ayres investigates the cause of a fire that caused damage to a house on Westfields by fire in Tilney St Lawrence. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Station manager Bob Ayres, 52 from Snettisham, is station commander at the King’s Lynn station and retires on January 2.

Looking back on his long career, he said being a firefighter was all he had ever wanted to do.

“I toyed with the idea of joining the RAF as a fire-fighter as my father was in the RAF, but at 22, I decided to join the local authority brigade, I applied and got in straight away. I was very lucky.”

Over the last three decades, Bob has seen fires of all sizes and severity, but a few have stuck in his mind.

Bob Ayres greeting the Queen at the opening of South Lynn Fire Station. Picture: Ian BurtBob Ayres greeting the Queen at the opening of South Lynn Fire Station. Picture: Ian Burt

“My very first fire call was a fire in a bungalow just outside Lowestoft.

“I was just there watching as I wasn’t allowed to do anything as it was four days before I went training, but it was my first induction on how we do things in the fire service.

“When I was an offshore fire-fighter we got called out early one morning to a ship on fire off Cromer.

“We got air lifted by the RAF and dropped on the ship where we were told there were 80 on board when actually there were 800.

“We fought the fire and ended up staying on the ferry all the way to Seaburgen and the next day we had a little bit of a heroes welcome from the passengers on board when the captain announced that we were on the mess deck saying ‘they are the guys who put the fire out’.

“I was also the duty officer on the night Downham Market fire station was on fire.

“Ironic, but a tragic event really. The on call crew from Downham Market had been alerted but obviously when they got there they saw it was their station on fire and couldn’t do anything, It was a sad day for the service.”

Things have changed considerably over 30 years, from what fire-fighters wear, to what they drive, Mr Ayres added.

“Due to lessons learnt over the years our procedures are far more thorough then they were, we threw more caution to the wind back then.

“The nature of the work we do has got wider over the years and I’ve gone from being the fire-fighter going into the burning building, to making the decisions. You’ve got the lives of your crew in your hands and it all hinges on the decisions you make.”

Being a fire-fighter in 2018 is more than putting out fires and attend road accidents, which was the staple in 1988 when he started his career.

“We assist the police and ambulances a lot with gaining entry to premises or people, chemical incidents are on the rise and we are more aware and trained for events around terrorism. The scope of the work we do is so vast, it’s not just fires anymore.”

Television shows and movies depict a fire station and its crew as having such a wonderful camaraderie and station ‘banter’, and Mr Ayers says it’s not far off the mark.

“When you’re from a whole-time station, such as King’s Lynn, the watchers are exactly how you see on television.

“They are tight-knit groups of people who live together, work together and eat together. We are one big team and at the end of the day when the call comes in we go out and work together to achieve that one aim.”

Even though Mr Ayres has worked in numerous fire stations during his tenure as a fire fighter, he has still made good friends that he will miss.

“I’ll miss the operational side as well, because although there are some things I would choose to forget, it’s actually what you join for. You join to be actively involved in incidents and I would thoroughly recommend this as a career for anybody.”

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