Family man Mick pinpoints service’s welcoming culture as secret to career longevity

A self-professed family man and former firefighter has praised the welcoming culture of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue as to one of the reasons why he’s spent more than four decades working for the organisation.

The support I’ve also received during the more difficult times has also been second to none and I’m really grateful for that.

Mick Warrilow, Community Safety Officer

Now serving as a Community Safety Officer, Mick Warrilow will hang up his boots for the final time on Friday 10 July – 42 years to the day since he joined as a trainee firefighter. During that time, Mick has juggled firefighting with work as a Magistrate and within the Air Cadets.

Speaking ahead of his farewell, the 66-year-old revealed how a Christmas party in London led him into a career in firefighting.

“Originally, I got into firefighting whilst I was in the Navy. We didn’t have too much training but if you’re at sea and there’s a fire – you’re going to have to put it out! However, it was in 1977 – during a national fire service strike – that I got my first real opportunity to experience the life of a firefighter.

“I headed up to London from the naval base at Portsmouth and was really thrown into the deep end in covering for those on strike. We had limited knowledge but attended a number of incidents during that time. Thankfully, a few members of the London Fire Service would turn up to each of these incidents and guide us through them – explaining things to keep us safe.

“After it was all over, we held a Christmas party for them as a thank you and during that I ended up getting a real insight into what a career within the fire service could look like – something I hadn’t really thought of.

“Having previously been rejected by Hampshire Police for being too short, I decided to apply to Staffordshire Fire and Rescue and was accepted. I went through the interview process and started on July 10 1978 at Newcastle Fire Station for training. I sometimes imagine what my life would be like if I’d been half an inch taller!

“Once my training was over, I was then posted to Hanley Red Watch and stayed there for 28 and a half years. I wasn’t particularly interested in promotion so I perfected my trade – becoming a driver, a breathing apparatus wearer, a hydraulic platform operator, a turn table ladder operator and then latterly an instructor and examiner in these fields. It was a tremendous learning experience.

“Things have changed massively in the last 40 years or so and one that has taught me so much. I’ve worked within a range of different policies and procedures, whilst tackling the challenges that come with new kit and appliances. I initially retired in 2008 after my 30 years of service but I was invited back and started doing more community work – helping set up a risk reduction team and being a big part in the recruitment of a retained section at Hanley.

“Unfortunately, a few years later I chose to retire again after my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She fought it and is still in remission today. However, I was invited back as a Community Safety Officer and that’s now a role I’ve been doing ever since. I’ve worked with the homeless and helped set up the Rough Sleepers Actions Group with local partners and councils. In 2015, I was nominated for a medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and I was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the community.

“I’m taking retirement now as my wife needs more support and care and unfortunately my daughter has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer so my retirement has come at the right time to support my family further.

“There’s obviously ups and downs, good and bad times in all jobs, no matter what you do. For me personally, it’s all been good. The good times really, really outweigh the bad times and what I take from it is the friendship, companionship and the camaraderie of the fire service. The close working together to get a problem solved within the community is something I won’t forget. It’s a difficult time at the moment but we’ll get to where we want to be if we work together because everybody’s important – everybody.

“The support I’ve also received during the more difficult times has also been second to none and I’m really grateful for that.

“The fire service is a truly unique place to work as well. If you think about the role of the firefighter – we always work in twos - two of you go into a fire, two of you man the hydraulic equipment at a road traffic collision. It’s a buddy system so you can build the trust and confidence in each other – it’s important to know someone has your back and you always get that here.

“I would advise a 17-year-old Mick Warrilow to listen, learn and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’d just tell him to go for it and let him know there’s a lot of good, but challenging, times ahead. If anyone is reading this and they’re interested in a career in the fire service then I’d say do it – you’re onto a winner if you end up getting half the pleasure that I’ve had in my 42 years. It’s a fantastic family environment, there’s a lot of support and help and so many opportunities for people to learn new skills. It’s a tremendous job – one for a lifetime.”