On-call firefighter from Burford to retire after 34 years of service

Dave Hemming, 60, will attend his last drill night at Burford's Witney Street fire station on Wednesday 26 November, before retiring at the end of the month.

Mr Hemming, a motor technician at Dowley's in Carterton, said it was time to step aside as "it is time to let the younger generation have a chance" but that he still retained the "thrill" of being called to an incident.

He said: "You see the young lads careering up the ladders nowadays and I think to myself that it is time to retire. The best thing other than serving the community and helping to protect people is the buzz of the job, which I will miss.

"There is great spirit at the fire station with the other lads and we really work well together, so obviously I will miss that side of things."

Big 1982 fire at the Bull Inn, Burford

Mr Hemming said he could not accurately estimate how many incidents he has attended on behalf of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service but said a large blaze in July 1982 at the Bull Inn in Burford High Street, where two children were rescued from a window ledge, was the most memorable.

"I remember the fire engine turning the corner and me seeing these two young kids on a window ledge of the Bull Inn, which was well alight, he said. "Myself and my colleague were first in the building to deal with the fire and I recall just how hot the fire was.

"We had only just got a new longer ladder for our fire engine in the week before the fire and had only tested it out once. I really do not know what we would have done to save those children from that ledge if we had not had that ladder."

Changes in equipment

Improvements in equipment used by firefighters is the biggest change Mr Hemming, who joined Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service after a friend encouraged him to do so, said he had noticed during his career, along with how personnel approach dealing with fires.

"Back when I started we had lots of plastic equipment, which would suffer in the heat," he said. "Some of the officers would deal with fires without using breathing apparatus, which of course now is unheard of.

"Firefighters are so much better equipped nowadays with all of the health and safety regulations that have come in, and obviously that is a good thing."

Mr Hemming said his wife Carol was looking forward to his retirement so they could have more of a planned social life together.

"At the moment we might be wanting to go out and then I will get a call to attend an incident, and then might not be back for five or six hours, so it will be good to be able to relax without thinking that I might be needed at a fire or road traffic accident," he said.

A great professional

Nick Bourke, Burford Fire Station Commander for Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Dave has been an exceptional professional and excellent servant to the community of Burford and Oxfordshire throughout his 34 years of service.

"I am sure many people will join me in congratulating and thanking Dave for his important work and in wishing him all the very best for the future."

Mr Hemming last year celebrated 100 years of combined service at Burford Fire Station with colleagues Charlie Williams, who had then given 34 years and Steve Edginton, who began as a fireman for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in 1980.