Celebrating 150 years of Hastings fire fighters

THE TOWN’S firefighters are gearing up for a special celebration, and are inviting the community to join them.

The event tomorrow (Saturday) at Bohemia Road Community Fire Station marks the 150th anniversary of Hastings Fire and Rescue Service.

Between 11am and 3.30pm there will be a range of fun events including demonstrations and displays featuring modern and vintage fire engines, a seatbelt sledge, and Santa’s Grotto.

Crew manager Graham Geer, 43, who has been in the fire service for 24 years, said that although there had been changes over the years, at its heart the fire service remained a close knit team, committed to serving the community.

“Someone who retired 30 years ago would still recognise the camaraderie,” he said.

Graham comes from a family of firefighters, following in the footsteps of both his father, and his grandfather, who had been in the fire service during the First World War.

“When I first started, the uniform was pretty similar to what they wore around the time of the Second World War, with cork helmets, thick woollen tunics, yellow plastic leggings, and leather boots,” he said.

Now the uniform includes helmets with complete protection and built in visors, fire hoods, and kit lined with Goretex, making it water proof.

Another change has been the increased focus on fire prevention work, such as offering home safety advice, and installing smoke detectors if necessary.

Shaun Rogers, 38, who has worked in the fire service for 20 years, and is based at The Ridge Fire Station, said that the first full-time firefighters were taken from the Navy and other armed forces, with much of the terminology used today originating from the Navy.

He added: “Today, we are getting out on the fire engines and helping people out, doing exactly the same things as they were doing 150 years ago.”

Plenty of refreshments will be available at tomorrow’s event, which will also give the public a chance to try abseiling down the fire station’s training tower, while children can dress up as a firefighter, and enjoy a game of football while learning how to keep safe.

The ESFRS Black Museum, recently featured on BBC Real Rescues, will be set up for visitors to see how unusual fires can start when you least expect it.

All money raised will be donated to Help for Heroes and Charity for Kids.