Tennis ball loving search dog set to put his paws up as he retires from the fire service

Nigel Gill, Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling and Eddie with his treats from Pets at Home in Birstall. (Photo WYFRS)

Nigel Gill, Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling and Eddie with his treats from Pets at Home in Birstall. (Photo WYFRS)

Firefighter Nigel Gill is retiring operationally from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service – and so is his search dog Eddie.

But for the five-year-old black Labrador it’s not game set and match just yet as he has lots more energy for chasing tennis balls into the horizon.

Best friends Nigel and Eddie at work. (Photo WYFRS)

Best friends Nigel and Eddie at work. (Photo WYFRS)

Nigel has completed his 30 year career with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, ending in the role of National Resilience Support Officer in the Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR).

He trained his dog Eddie up to national standard and for the last three years they have worked side by side.

Nigel said: “I’m sure Eddie and I will enjoy our retirement together. He has a lot of energy and still has legs for some long walks yet.

“Eddie’s favourite thing to do is to chase tennis balls. He will do anything for a tennis ball and that’s how I trained him – by using it as a reward toy.

“We have a close bond and we come as a team – he would not work for anyone else!”

Nigel started his career at Rothwell Fire Station where he was based for around two decades.

He joined the USAR team in 2005, based at Cleckheaton Fire Station, working closely with the Technical Rescue Team.

USAR then moved to Fire Service Headquarters in Birkenshaw in 2015.

Together Eddie and Nigel have also been deployed out of county to Derby and Sheffield to help with searches involving building collapses. They have also helped police in the search for missing people.

Talking about his fire service career, Nigel, a 52-year-old father of two from Lofthouse, said: “The highlight of my career has been working in the USAR Team. It has been a privilege.

“The fire service is a family and a career I would recommend to others.”

Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling said: “I would like to take the opportunity to thank Nigel for his dedication to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service over three decades.

“Eddie has been a great addition to the team and we are sure he will have a happy retirement in the pursuit of his favourite toy, a tennis ball!”

Pets At Home in Birstall got to hear about Eddie’s love of tennis balls and donated a basket of them for his leaving present.