Retiring firefighter’s warning over cuts to service

Recognition...Paul Weston group manager presents Dennis Palmer with his 37 year service certificate at Kibworth Firestation.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
Recognition...Paul Weston group manager presents Dennis Palmer with his 37 year service certificate at Kibworth Firestation.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

A retiring firefighter from Kibworth has warned that local people are “not as safe as they were” after plans were announced to shut the fire station where he used to work.

Dennis Palmer (62) stepped down after 37 years as a retained firefighter at Kibworth Fire Station.

In the same week he retired, the county Fire Authority announced proposals to axe Kibworth Fire Station.

“People have joked that they waited for me to retire before they made the announcement!” said Mr Palmer, who lives and works in Kibworth.

“But seriously, if there is an incident in the Kibworth area, people will have to wait that little bit longer for firefighters to get here.

“And that means - if this fire station does shut - that local people are not as safe as they were.”

Mr Palmer, a married father-of-two, has been “on call” for the Fire Service since he joined in 1978.

As a retained firefighter, he trained regularly and responded to emergencies, but also had a main job as an electrician.

He will still keep up with his “day job” as the owner of Dennis Palmer Electricals.

Mr Palmer said his most memorable moment as a firefighter came while fighting a factory fire in the Catherine Street area of Leicester.

“We were assigned to the ALP (the hydraulic Aeriel Ladder Platform) and I soon found myself about 120 feet up spraying water onto a factory fire.

“You’re basically in a bucket, and in those days you weren’t even harnessed in. And there was a massive gas main still going nearby.

“That was one of my more exciting call-outs.”

He said a call-out in Kibworth over Christmas showed the value of Kibworth Fire Station.

“It was a fire caused by a tea-light catching a curtain, and because of the smoke from the fire, a baby was struggling to breathe.

“We arrived first and were able to give first aid, and the Ambulance crew didn’t get there for a further 15 minutes.”

But he said that the job had changed significantly during his time in the fire service, with the number of fires decreasing - thanks to better safety precautions - and the number of road traffic accidents attended by the service on the up.

“Road traffic accidents are a little bit more demanding, because you have people trapped” he explained.

“You have to rely on whoever is in charge telling you exactly what to do.”

Retained firemen like Mr Palmer are paid, but he said: “Anyone who joins for the money doesn’t last long.

“The money means nothing when you’re getting out of bed at three in the morning to attend a call - and then going to work as usual the next day.”

He said it was the sense of helping his community - and the rushes of adrenalin from incidents - that kept him in the fire service for 37 years.

Now he has retired, he says he is looking forward to “getting my life back”.

“It can be difficult when the family has something planned, and you suddenly get a call-out” he admitted. “I won’t miss that.

“But if I hear the ‘alerters’ going, I’m sure I’ll still want to drop what I’m doing and go straight away.

“Not going ... that will take a bit of getting used to.”