Britain’s longest serving fireman has retired after attending over 8,000 incidents in his 44-year career.
Ian Tucker, 60, joined up as an auxiliary fireman aged 16 after watching his father Jack enjoy a long career as a station commander.
Since then Ian has attended over 8,000 incidents – an average of three-and-a-half per week – and saved the lives of hundreds of people trapped in fires.
The father-of-two, whose son David, 33, is also a fireman, retired last week as station commander in Glastonbury, Somerset, after celebrating his 60th birthday.
Ian, who lives in Wick, Somerset, with wife Caroline, 59, said he is looking forward to enjoying a meal or peaceful night’s sleep without the fear of being called out.
He said: ”My father was in the fire brigade and I’d grown up with it all my life. He disappeared at all times of the day and night so we got used to it.
”I’ve spent 44 years sleeping with my pager at my bedside and have always had my jogging trousers and sweater hanging on the back of the door.
”My wife is very pleased they are gone and also that she can actually cook a meal without worrying whether I will be called out to a fire.
”I would be very happy to see my grandchildren join become firemen – or firewomen – because that would be four generations of the family.
”I have thoroughly enjoyed my career, it’s been a real privilege and I’ve had a great deal of satisfaction from helping people out.
”I have had quite a few exciting moments and my only regret is that I have to retire.”
Ian signed up as an auxiliary fireman in 1966 at his local station in Glastonbury, Somerset, where his father Jack was station commander.
His first big call-out was to a fire at the Seed Mill in Street, Somerset, where he helped carry a heavy pump to a nearby fire hydrant.
Ian said: ”By the time we got there we were exhausted because it was so heavy and you had to crank it to get the water but we had no energy left.
”We got the fire out in the end but there wasn’t much left of the mill.”
Ian believes that the most dangerous incident in his career was in 2000 when he attended a fire at Sparks Transport lorry yard in Glastonbury, Somerset.
The fire burnt so hot that metal rings on the wheels of the lorries began shooting off at high speed. ”It was as if you were in Beirut,” Ian said.
He believes that the biggest change since 1966 has been pagers replacing the fire ‘hooters’ which used to sound the alarm across the whole town.
Ian, a grandfather-of-five, was not required to take compulsory retirement but has decided to go because the ”time seems right”.
He plans to begin his retirement by restoring a classic MG car after acting as fire officer for this year’s Glastonbury Festival, a post he has held for 28 years.
The grandfather-of-two said: ”I only joined the auxiliary fire service because they had a motorbike and that was a big attraction to a 16-year-old but I never even got to ride the thing.
”Since then I have attended so many fires that they aren’t very dramatic for me – it’s just another day at the office.
”But you have to remember that the people you are rescuing will never forget what has happened.
”The biggest change over the years has been the technology. Fires don’t really change that much although the nature of them has become different.
”More plastic items in homes makes fires burn hotter and faster with toxic fumes so smoke alarms are very essential.
”I will miss the comradeship and banter at work it’s what gets you through it. Life as a firefighter can be exciting but often dull, cold and miserable.”
Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said Ian can ”always be proud” of his achievements and wished him a happy retirement.
He said: ”It’s going to be very difficult to fill his shoes – he has been an exceptional member of the service and he’ll be remembered for his whacky drills.
”I’m sure after 44 years of sleeping with a pager next to him and one foot on the floor he’ll be glad for the chance of a guaranteed night’s sleep.
”But I’d like to thank him for all of the hard work he has put in. The amount of people he has helped over the years is just incredible. He’ll be sorely missed.”