A STALWART Mirfield firefighter has marked 30 years of keeping the district safe.
Richard Rhodes has served as an on-call fireman at the station on Huddersfield Road since 1989.
Now 61, Richard continues to work regular shifts on top of his day job as a window cleaner.
Crewing the pump alongside him are HGV drivers, office workers, retirees, a chef and a stay-at-home mum, who drop what they’re doing and rush to the station as soon as they’re called to an emergency.
“From 3pm until 6am the following morning, I’m on call from home, if I’m needed I get paged,” said Richard, who was recognised by his colleagues for his three decades of service last week.
“We manage to keep the appliance manned 24/7 with the number of guys we have on different shift patterns.”
Mirfield’s retained firefighters, who all must live within a mile of the station, operate two fire appliances – one engine that attends incidents with a crew of six, and a second that transports pods of specialist equipment.
The life of an on-call firefighter can mean long days and sleepless nights, but Richard says that helping people in need makes it all worth it.
“I’ve been to hundreds if not thousands of different jobs over the years – when you’ve been to an incident and you’ve helped somebody or saved their life that’s the most rewarding thing,” he said.
“They then might send you a thankyou letter or a box of chocolates so it’s really nice to get that bit of feedback.”
The 61-year-old admitted serving the community for nearly three decades has meant he’s had to make personal sacrifices.
“It does put a lot of strain on your family and social life, you have to have people around you that are understanding,” said Richard.
“When I’m on call I can’t go more than five minutes away, I could be needed at any time.
“I’m married to this (pager), it buzzes and I’m up and out, we can get a fire appliance out of the door in two to three minutes, every second counts.”
Richard, who lives on Fenton Street just yards from the station, has encountered huge changes to his role over the years, from improvements to fire engines to witnessing colleagues come and go.
“The service has come on leaps and bounds compared to what it was like when I joined, particularly in the equipment we use,” said Richard.
“When I first joined we wore plastic trousers, cork helmets and rubber wellington boots, but nowadays the kit is so much more advanced.
“We have flash hoods and helmets with visors, there was nothing like that when I first joined – we had little neckerchiefs to put around your neck!”