100 years of combined service for three on-call firefighters

It is estimated that Charlie Williams, Steve Edginton and Dave Hemming have attended around 13,000 calls between them since joining Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service.

They were recognised for their century of work of helping to protect the community by being presented with distinctive certificates to mark their combined milestone at a ceremony at Burford Bowls Club, which was attended by Nathan Travis, Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service's Deputy Chief Fire Officer.

They also received commemorative brass plaque each from Burford Town Council and individual engraved gold watches as a thank you from family, friends and colleagues.

Runs in the family

Mr Williams' father Charles was a firefighter and sub-officer also based at Burford, having joined in 1967. It was an incident involving him which helped inspire his son to join the service in February 1979 during a recruitment drive.

A fire engine Mr Williams senior was on overturned in high winds and driving rain on the Brize Norton to Bampton road in December 1972 on route to cover the Bampton crew who were dealing with a chip pan fire at the Cotswold Grill Café.

He was unhurt having managed to crawl out of the fire engine with three colleagues, however two others were trapped inside and had to be released.

Mr Williams junior, born and bred in Burford and married to Helen, said: "Obviously the accident had a big impact on the local community and people were talking about it for many years after it happened.

"It was a factor, as was my father, in my joining, as I saw that more on-call firefighters were required in the town and I thought that I could give something back. Here I am 34 years later and I still really enjoy the job."

Mr Williams junior, 56, a father of two and grandfather of three, said his on-call duties helped his "grey matter tick over," adding: "My family are hugely supportive of my role and often I am called out at a moment's notice to go out and attend an incident."

He owns the family-run Vick's Byways Garage in Burford, and added: "Being a firefighter runs in the family and I really do feel part of an excellent team at the fire station, as we all work together as you have to rely on each other to respond effectively to the call-outs that we get."

Exciting role

Mr Edginton, a 52-year-old builder, was born in Burford and then moved away before returning at the age of 18, building his own house. He said he "reluctantly" joined the Fire and Rescue Service in September 1980 but now could not see himself not being an on-call firefighter.

"Back when I joined there was a relative shortage of personnel in the town and I reluctantly joined up, as I had never really given it much thought previously," he said.

"It is a really exciting job to do and one of the best things about it is meeting people throughout the course of answering calls that I would not usually meet - there's also a great sense of camaraderie amongst the crews at Burford Fire Station.

"Now I can't see myself not being an on-call firefighter - I enjoy it that much and I have no intention of giving it up."

Mr Edginton, who is married to Sue, added: "My wife is very supportive and has got used over the years to me being whisked away to deal with a call."

Varied job

Mr Hemming, a 59-year-old motor technician at Dowley's in Carterton, said the variety of his role was the main reason why he has stayed in it for so long. "You never know when you arrive at work what you are going to be dealing with," he said. "I still get an adrenaline rush when my alerter goes and I am needed to respond to calls - that has not gone away despite me being an on-call firefighter for so long.

"I cannot believe it has been 33 years. The time has flown by, but it is such an enjoyable role. A former colleague of mine enticed me to join and I filled in the application form and that was it. I never expected when I joined that I'd be doing it now - I went along to a drill night and have loved it ever since."

Mr Hemming, who is married to Carol, said his most memorable call-out was when he was first on the scene at a blaze at the fifteenth century Bull Inn in Burford's High Street in July 1982.

"We received the call and I was there first with a  colleague and the place was going up in flames like anything," Mr Hemming, who joined the Fire and Rescue Service on 1 November 1980, said. "I remember that the High Street was closed off for about five days afterwards whilst things were cleaned up."

A wonderful achievement

Nathan Travis, Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service's Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said: "100 years of combined service is a wonderful joint achievement by Charlie, Steve and Dave and I would like to thank them for all of the hard work and effort they have put in and their huge contribution to helping to protect the public.

"Like whole-time personnel, saving lives and protecting local communities is all in a day's work for on-call firefighters, who play an invaluable role in Oxfordshire."