Wem firefighters blazing into record books after 40 years

Two of the UK’s longest serving firefighters are to be recognised by the fire service covering Shropshire at an awards ceremony.

Phil Smith and Dave Furber are two of the longest serving firefighters in the UK

Firefighting duo Phil Smith and Dave Furber have served together at Wem Fire Station for more than 40 years each.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service will now present them with an award at a ceremony on June 8.

“To reach 40 years service is a huge achievement not reached by many in the UK but it’s not unusual in Shropshire. Our firefighters are amazingly dedicated and deliver levels of availability that many other services would envy,” said chief fire officer Rod Hammerton.

Another north Shropshire firefighter Roger Smith, a former mayor of Market Drayton, retired two years ago aged 70 after a record 48 year career.

But Alfred Thompson, from Whitchurch, goes down in history as the longest serving UK firefighter of all time. He joined the Shropshire brigade as a 16-year-old, while Queen Victoria was on the throne, serving for a record 57 years until he died, aged 73.

Whenever Phil and Dave have turned out to a house fire, road crash, flood or any rescue – they have usually known the victims in the tight knit Wem community they have collectively served for more than 80 years.

Dedication to duty is what both have put above all else which has seen watch manager Phil, 61, turn out on the first morning of his honeymoon and abandon another planned holiday.

The pair have turned out together on 99 per cent of calls in which they have worked to save lives at road crashes and comfort trauma victims in their hour of need.

They were part of the crew that received a chief officers’ award for bringing a man back to life with a defibrillator after he had collapsed and stopped breathing during a garden fire two years ago.

They were also at the Tern Hill barracks bombing aftermath, Cox’s Chemical fire, Shrewsbury gas explosion and the COD Donnington fires.

“When that bleeper goes and we are on our way from Wem fire station to help someone on our patch we know the people involved 99 per cent of the time,” said Phil, who turned up with a crew to his father’s chimney fire.

The two said they had seen huge improvements in training and fire kit with sophisticated cutting equipment replacing a crowbar or handsaw they may have used to carry out a rescue four decades ago.

“Breathing apparatus had only just come in when we joined and we didn’t have to wear it,” said Dave, 64.

The firefighting duo will be recognised at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury next week when they receive their 40 years long service awards from the chief fire officer.