Firefighter bids farewell after more than 40 years’ service
After 41 years of serving the communities of Staffordshire, Watch Manager Keith Davies has hung up his fire helmet.
On 31 December 2023, Keith left Loggerheads Community Fire Station for the final time after giving over four decades of timeless dedication.
It was back in the summer of 1982 when Keith, through word of mouth, heard about opportunities of joining Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service as an on-call firefighter at his local station in Ashley. After completing his training, his initial day as a firefighter was on 1 September that year when his first job was attending a chimney fire.
“Even now I still remember that first call in Loggerheads. The excitement and adrenaline was there for sure, and it was an incredible feeling being on the fire engine. I know I was really keen and excited to get stuck in.
“I’ve always felt so proud being able to drive the fire engine and I look back on the last 41 years with really fond memories. Even up to my final fire call at the end of December, my enthusiasm has never changed and every call-out bought a sense of excitement and a different challenge.
“It was pretty emotional hanging up my fire helmet for the last time. But now is the time for me to hand the reigns over to young blood and to spend more time with family and friends although it only feels like yesterday when I first walked through the doors of Ashley Fire Station.”
Starting out as a firefighter in 1982, Keith became Crew Manager four years later in 1986 and then went on to become a Watch Manager, originally at Ashley and more latterly at the fire station in Loggerheads.
And it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Keith as he dealt with and supported on many difficult incidents, ranging from house fires where householders lost their homes, as well as traumatic fatal road traffic collisions.
“Absolutely there’ve been many difficult incidents to face and at times I needed time to recover emotionally, which wasn’t easy. But, as a firefighter and fire officer, support has always been there from family, friends and colleagues who you could talk too. The support I received from the service too was exceptional.”
Having had a knee replacement in 2018, Keith was also keen to thank the brigade in helping him get back to fitness and into his role.
While admitting he’ll miss going back to work at the fire service, Keith, now that he has retired, will be spending more time with his family.
“The final drill night on 27 December 2023 was pretty emotional as I knew it was going to be my final day with the team. I was quite tearful but so proud to be presented with my retirement gifts of a brigade figurine and Fire Axe, together with a certificate from the Chief Fire Officer - whom I’ve known since he started as a firefighter.
“Now I’m retired, I’ll definitely be able to turn up at family birthday parties and be around for Christmas lunches. I’m going to spend more time with my family, relax and actually grow a beard.”
To those individuals considering a firefighting career, Keith gives this advice: “Becoming a firefighter will help you stay fit and healthy, make great friends and make a difference to your local community. The camaraderie at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is just amazing. When you get the opportunity, call into your local fire station and have a look around and chat to the team.
“Becoming a firefighter takes dedication. You need to be prepared to give up evenings, weekends and commit to training and if you get your work/life balance right you can go onto have a great career."
Having worked alongside Keith in different roles, Rob Barber, Chief Fire Officer, paid tribute to the service Keith has given: “Keith has always been a diligent, hardworking individual who is committed to supporting his local community. To devote your life to public service in this way is inspiring. He’s seen many changes during his long career and has helped so many community members over such a long period of time, something we should all thank him for.
“Keith’s family have also supported both him and the service for so many years, that I’d like to place on record my thanks to them too as he’s missed many family occasions due to his role. Now he’s retired, he can enjoy some well-deserved rest and family time. Thank you for your service Keith.”
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service are recruiting on-call firefighters at Loggerheads Community Fire Station. The role is paid, however to be eligible you need to live or work within five minutes of the station. For more information visit On-call firefighter recruitment (staffordshirefire.gov.uk).