Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is saying goodbye to one of its firefighters after 31 years of service.
For those just starting out or thinking of joining the Service I would say stay positive, work hard, rise to the challenge, respect those around you and be grateful for what you have. That’s served me well.
Group Manager Brian Griffiths will be hanging up his helmet for the last time today (Friday October 25) and retiring after a long and happy career.
The father of two joined in 1988 as a retained firefighter in Longton after he was inspired by the work of his wife's grandfather, Erik Jenkinson, who was a Divisional Commander in the former City of Stoke-on-Trent Fire Brigade for 39 years. Leaving his job as a welder behind, Brian became a wholetime firefighter in 1989 and was stationed in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Brian said: “On my first day on station I walked into the watch office and introduced myself. The Watch Manager asked me what I would prefer to be called. I told him that all my mates call me ‘Griff’ so he said ‘Brian it is then'.
Brian had many achievements in his career including early promotion, making it to leading firefighter in just three years. He went on to become a Station Manager and Group Manager.
He added: “One of the highlights of my career was receiving a Chief Fire Officer's Commendation. Back in 1997 I was off duty when I came across a road traffic collision and saw a young old girl lying in the road with serious head injuries. I gave her first aid and did everything I could before the ambulance arrived. Although I received a commendation for my actions the paramedics sadly told me the girl may not survive her injuries.
“However, 18 years later, whilst in my local pub the Auctioneers Arms in Caverswall, a young woman came up to me and asked if I knew any firefighters from Longton. Of course I said yes, why do you ask? She told me that she was looking for a fireman who stopped whilst off duty and helped her as a child when she had been hit by a car and I couldn’t believe it. When I told her it was me she thought I was winding her up and, to be honest, I thought she was winding me up. But there she was years later looking totally well and thanking me for my actions.”
The 53-year-old has seen several changes over the years, including advancements in their operational equipment and Fire Kit (PPE). When he joined they wore yellow plastic leggings and a helmet which didn’t cover their ears and neck.
He said: “Back then you knew when your ears started burning and your leggings started melting it was time to get out of the fire. You didn’t have the protection then that you have now. Thankfully, now you’re completely covered so you don’t feel much of the heat. It was totally different then.”
Brian has attended hundreds of incidents over the years and one that particularly sticks in his mind was a large 12-appliance basement fire at the Michelin in Stoke back in 1993.
“That was the first and only time I have had to use a guideline whilst wearing breathing apparatus to show us the way out of a fire. At one point the fire spread across the ceiling and landed behind us, trapping us inside the basement. That’s probably one of the few moments in my career I actually got twitchy, thinking ‘how are we getting out of this alive’, but thankfully we managed to find the guidelines and safely made it out.”
As much as he remembers the incidents, he said he will miss so many people he has met in the service. He feels he has made some life-long friends who he will stay in touch with during his retirement.
“I feel really blessed to have had a career that allows me to retire now and still be able to enjoy life. My daughter, Brogan, is getting married next year and my son, Ashley, has just bought his first home so that will keep me busy. Other than that I will be pursuing my hobby of motorcycling and hopefully travelling around Europe at some point.”
“For those just starting out, or thinking of joining the service, I would say stay positive, work hard, rise to the challenge, respect those around you and be grateful for what you have. That’s served me well.”