40 Years Service

Whitchurch Station Manager Mike Beach and his wife Christine receiving his 40 years service award from Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor and Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority chairman Stuart West.

Firefighters were praised for their dedicated service to Shropshire at an awards ceremony held at Shrewsbury Fire HQ including a special award to recognise 40 years service made to Whitchurch Station Manager Mike Beach.

Mike, of Pearl Yard, joined the fire service as a 17-year-old after spending his childhood cycling after fire engines "to find out where the fire was."

He was praised for forging links with the community, motivating staff and pushing forward fire safety initiatives during his lengthy career.

Born and bred in Whitchurch and a former pupil at Whitchurch Secondary Modern School, Mike used to wait to hear the siren on the drill tower to indicate an emergency before following the Whitchurch crew to a fire. After joining the service in 1968, he has served his whole career in the town and also works as a Retained Support Officer.

During his career he has attended many farm fires, road traffic collisions and house fires. Major incidents included a fire at the Shell refinery at Ellesmere Port, COD Donnington and the IRA terrorist bombing at Tern Hill barracks.

Recalling the IRA attack at the Army base, Mike said: "That was a sobering night. I was in charge of water supplies and I had an armed soldier to protect me and we were warned that the terrorists may still be on the site and we could be attacked at any time."

"I've enjoyed all of it. All the ups and downs. I've worked with some great people but times have certainly changed over the past 40 years."

Firefighters now have access to intricate cutting equipment to deal with road crashes but when Mike joined the service there was no such equipment aboard the fire appliances.

"We used to get the local garage out if someone was trapped in a car and they would get out the oxycetylene equipment. We did have some big fires in those days but we don't have as many now."

Mike's wife Christine remembered how as a 12-year-old, she would be abandoned by 15-year-old Mike who would leave her to follow the fire engines.

"He has been abandoning me ever since to attend emergencies all our married life," she added.

Lord Lieutenant Algernon Heber-Percy presented Long Service and Good Conduct Medals to firefighters from Prees and Baschurch fire stations. He thanked them for their loyalty and bravery in carrying out service to the community and praised wives, partners and children for their support which included giving up holidays and experiencing regular disturbed mealtimes.

"We appreciate everything that a firefighter does. You are a very valued industry," he said.

Fire authority chairman Stuart West, who presented miniature medals to wives and partners, thanked them for their valuable support which was an important contribution to the brigade.

"It must be a worry when they go to a serious incident not sure when they will be back and if they will be harmed. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and the authorities heart for all you do," said Mr West.

Receiving the Long Service and Good Conduct Medals were: Retained Leading Prees firefighter Peter Furber, a crew member of the High Volume Pumping Unit, who helped with the huge floods in Yorkshire in 2007. The father of three builds theatre scenery for his employer on the Prees Industrial Estate. Retained Baschurch Crew Manager Brian Welti has worked at Shrewsbury and Wem stations. The father of three has also served in West Glamorgan, Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service. He recently took part in a firefighter exchange programme in Portugal.

Firefighter Glenn Willis, also a father of three, joined Baschurch Fire Station in 1988 where he still serves.

30th March, 2009