Shropshire firefighter Phil steps down after 43 years
He has battled serious illness and helped save lives over a 43-year career with the fire service, and now Philip Smith has finished his final drill session.
The 63-year-old Wem firefighter said that retirement would mean he could spend more time with his family who have missed out when he's been called to major incidents at a moment's notice.
He said: “I’ve had to dash off to incidents over the years and missed many family occasions, but I have loved every minute of working for the fire service, it’s really been a great life.
“I’m looking forward to spending time with my wife, she has supported me throughout the years, so I owe her some shopping trips and I’ll be spending time with my grandchildren too.”
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Andy Johnson paid tribute to Philip and said the service was losing a "very experienced, professional and very well-respected officer".
He said: “Officers in charge of on-call stations across the county are often thought of as the local ‘Fire Chief’ and no-one deserves such a title more than Phil. He has always led by example.
“Achieving 43 years in service is an outstanding achievement, bearing in mind the physical and emotional challenges our firefighters experience almost every day and clearly demonstrates Phil’s devotion to the communities that he has served for so long.
“We all wish him a very long, happy and healthy retirement, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, the town of Wem and the wider county are losing a very experienced, professional and very well-respected officer.”
During his career Philip has attended a host of major incidents. He recalled being one of the first teams inside Shrewsbury Castle after the IRA bombing in 1992.
He said: "I went inside the building with breathing apparatus, obviously to go and search and we came across what we thought at the time was bodies, I thought "oh my god", but we stepped back a bit and realised they were the dummies that had been blown over and knocked down."
He also attended the major fire at Cox Chemicals and remembers the biggest incident as the Whixall Moss blaze which hit about 50 acres of a National Nature Reserve in the 1980s.
The incident lasted a week and Philip said the response saw 34 fire pumps at the scene.
He said: "There were trees that were 40ft high and the fire went through them and left them just like sticks. It was a huge fire."
Philip suffered a cardiac arrest while at a Remembrance Sunday parade in 2007 but was determined to get back to the job he loved.
He said: "I could not speak highly enough of them at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and the care I had, and I was there for five weeks."
He said that despite a grim prognosis he had been determined to get back to work.
He said: "They said I would never come out but I said I would prove them wrong. I had to have 12 months off work but I got back."
Philip said he was sad to leave the service but was hugely proud of his career.
He said: "It will break my heart, I have been in 43 years, I have not known anything different.
"I like to think that over the years I learned from good people, from their experience, and I hope I have passed that on."