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Firefighting dynasty hits landmark 100th birthday

Hampshire News | Firefighting dynasty hits landmark 100th birthday | Andover & VillagesWhen do three Weeks total 100 years?

The answer is a fire service family dynasty that stretches across three generations and has just marked this milestone birthday.

Between them the trio of Andy, Mick and Percy have put out thousands of fires and rescued hundreds of people across Hampshire.

Andy is a station manager in the New Forest and has recently marked his 25th anniversary with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – first as on-call and later full-time.

His dad Mick served for 45 years leaving as a watch manager – or officer in charge as it was then called – while his grandfather Percy clocked up 30 years as a firefighter. Both worked from Liphook Fire Station.

Andy said: “I think it says a lot about the service and the things it does that I am the third generation in a row to join up.

“It was the idea of helping people in the community that attracted me to HFRS and it seemed like a perfect fit.

“I can still recall my first shout – an automatic fire alarm on Christmas Day because somebody had burnt their Turkey. We had to get up in the middle of our Christmas dinner – but my mum was used to it because of my dad.”

Percy started the tradition becoming an on-call firefighter while working jobs including grave digger and warehouse man in 1954 – the year Elvis Presley started making music.

Mick, a shop assistant at a green grocers, was over the moon to be taken on under the tutelage of his dad and others in 1969 – the year Neil Armstrong made his historic giant leap.

Andy then started in 1992 shortly after the creation of the world wide web. He was employed as a green keeper on a golf course at the time and worked with his dad who was in charge of the watch.

Mick said: “When I started there was no breathing apparatus available and we would ride to jobs on the Bedford TK.

“All the firefighters brought skills from their fulltime jobs to the role. We had mechanics, fishermen and carpenters.

“We still had house bells in those days and as soon as that alert went adrenaline would kick in.”

He said he feels the culture of HFRS is one of the key things that drew in generations of his family and continues to attract hundreds of applicants to every full-time operational vacancy.

Mick added: “The then chief, Malcolm Eastwood visited stations to talk to crews while his wife made teas and coffees – I remember thinking that I worked somewhere special.

“I was involved in a crash between two fire engines which collided on black ice while they were responding to jobs.

“The chief came to the hospital and waited all day until everyone was checked over and released.”

Andy echoed these sentiments and said: “That is very much the culture now. There is great importance placed on the welfare of the people who work in the organisation. It is like a family.

“I really can’t imagine working anywhere else or doing a job I enjoy as much. I have never felt unhappy at the thought of going into work.

“I remember visiting Liphook to deliver training to my dad and my friends as particularly good times for me on a personal level.”

In addition to Liphook he later worked at Rushmoor, Basingstoke, Winchester, Alresford and Droxford before eventually coming to headquarters as a trainer and later station manager for the organisation’s prestigious Academy.

The veteran firefighter believed he may not be the last of the dynasty to pick up the hose as his son Thomas, aged 11, is also interested in the fire service.

His daughter Megan, aged 13, is looking at following another blue light family tradition and wants to become a police officer like her great uncle Ed who is a dog handler in the Metropolitan Police in London.

This is not the only interest the 43-year-old dad has in the future generations joining Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

He said his proudest achievement in the fire service came last year when he was part of the team which trained 27 firefighters who are now working on stations throughout the county.