I joined the London Fire Brigade just before my 19th Birthday in July 1987. After completing my training, I was posted to the Blue Watch at Bethnal Green fire station in East London. This busy fire station averaged around 4000 calls per year back in those days, covering an area filled with pre and post war council housing estates, lots of derelict properties in the back streets, small businesses such as clothing manufacturers, garages and print works. There were four hospitals, two underground stations and two major railway lines running through Bethnal Green.
A Firefighters life was a busy one in most of inner London back in those days, Bethnal Green was no exception and probationary Firefighters would gain their experience very quickly.
After a couple of years, I moved to my firefighting ‘spiritual home’ F22 Poplar Fire Station. This station was very close to where I had grown up and where I’d spend a lot of my time as a kid. Poplar was another very busy station with a more diverse workload than Bethnal Green. When I moved there, the biggest construction site in Europe was on the stations ground. The skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, for many years the tallest buildings in the UK were gradually rising above the high-rise council flats to form a new skyline across the East End.
Poplar had part the River Thames edging its ground, three major road tunnels and a fourth was being built. Lots of old derelict industrial areas which were gradually being replaced with modern distribution warehouse sites. There was a couple of fast dual carriageways including the notorious ‘Blackwall Tunnel approach’ and of course the old West India Docks which was year by year being consumed by the increasing development of Canary Wharf.
As my career progressed, I took promotion and spent time at both Plaistow and Bow Fire Stations, also in the East End, both bordering Poplar. But I always ended up back at Poplar, eventually serving in every rank there from Firefighter to Temporary Assistant Divisional Officer as Station Commander.
2004 saw me formally promoted to Station Commander where I served at Homerton, Wennington and Harold Hill. In 2010 I was promoted to Group Manager (formerly Divisional Officer) and worked in Training then at HQ in Special Operations during the 2012 London Olympics.
In 2013 I got my long wished for job as Borough Commander for the ‘Borough of fire’ Hackney and I thought that I was done. But for the final eight months I was moved back to Tower Hamlets and ended up as Commander for the Borough I’d grown up in as well as serving most of my career there.
I retired in July 2018 and now work for myself as a fire and resilience consultant doing any number of things from fire safety to lecturing on the National Inter Agency Liaison Officers course at the Fire Service College.
I live in Hornchurch on the London/Essex Borders with my wife and three daughters.