'Nice to put my feet up' - Firefighter retires after 31 years of service

phil spooner

Phil Spooner was presented with a long-service certificate by Station Manager Andy English in recognition of his 31 years of dedication and service to Beccles. - Credit: Suffolk Fire and Rescue

From helping a driver who crashed into eight children after an epileptic fit, to rescuing a kitten with its head stuck in a tin, Phil Spooner has seen it all.

But New Year's Eve marked his very last day as crew manager for Beccles fire station after 31 years with the crew.

Mr Spooner, 67, joined Beccles fire station in November 1990 when he was 36 and has served as crew manager since 2004.

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Crew manager Phil Spooner receiving a certificate from watch manager Tim Bray in June to mark 30 years of service at Beccles Fire Station. - Credit: Suffolk Fire and Rescue

He is the longest serving member of Beccles fire station and said that his last day on the job felt strange.

"Today is a big day, it is my last day with Beccles fire station," he said.

"It feels strange, half of my life has been spent with Beccles fire station now.

"So it is strange in one way and sad in another because I will miss the boys and crew so much.

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"I feel like over the 31 years I have really achieved something great though.

"Serving the community of Beccles has been a complete honour, but I am really looking forward to my newfound freedom now.

"The role of crew manager brings a lot of responsibility, so it will be nice to put my feet up."

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Phil at the scene of a car fire with fire crews. - Credit: Phil Spooner

Before joining Beccles fire station, Mr Spooner was a member of the Waveney Camera Club, being a keen photographer.

But he found his second work family with the fire station.

Mr Spooner described the variety that comes with the role.

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The scene of a recent car fire that Beccles fire crew were called to. - Credit: Phil Spooner

"It is such a hard job physically," he said.

"The other morning I had a callout at 4am and you quickly have to get up.

"Sometimes my buzzer has gone off in the shower before and I have to rush to dry myself off in time.

"What I will miss is that rush of adrenaline being called out, that call out just becomes a natural part of your body clock after 31 years."

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Phil Spooner with two other members of the fire crew. - Credit: Phil Spooner

Over the years, the way in which the fire service have dealt with incidents has changed drastically.

Mr Spooner has seen and felt how the role has evolved over time.

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Phil Spooner pictured with all the crew back in the day. - Credit: Phil Spooner

He said: "Technology has changed massively over the years.

"The equipment back in the day was very basic.

"Everything was a lot more time consuming but now we have technology which makes the whole process more streamlined."

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Phil will now enjoy a well earned rest. - Credit: Phil Spooner

Mr Spooner said that the most rewarding part of the job is helping people, everything from small incidents to huge incidents which have left a lasting impression.

"I've always enjoyed helping people, whether that is giving them fire advice or making sure people get on to an ambulance after a life threatening situation," he said.

"The incidents I have attended over the years have been so varied.

"I once helped a young lady help release her kitten's head from a tin around eight years ago - that rescue made it into The Sun newspaper.

"We had a 25 pumper at the Lowestoft Hippodrome many years ago with crews from all over Norfolk and Suffolk.

"In 2009 a driver crashed into eight children in Worlingham after suffering an epileptic fit."

animal rescue

Phil has been called to all sorts of incidents over the years, including animal rescues. - Credit: Phil Spooner

The hardest part of the job for Mr Spooner has been responding to these more serious incidents.

"The most challenging part of the role has always been responding to the more serious RTCs.

"The screaming always stays with you.

"What's more, we have a time limit or golden hour to get the patient released from the vehicle and with the ambulance crew within an hour.

"I'm always happy when they are on the trolley with the ambulance crew because these kind of incidents always haunt you."

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Phil will now be working with the prevention unit. - Credit: Phil Spooner

Mr Spooner will now join the prevention unit on a zero hours contract, continuing to help the community by offering fire safety advice to people in their homes and helping the vulnerable.

"I will miss the camaraderie for sure but I will still join the crew at the pub," he said.

"Anyone who wants to join the fire service, do.

"It is the most varied and rewarding role which will stay with you forever."

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Phil in action responding to a recent fire. - Credit: Phil Spooner

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