Long-serving fire crew members call it a day

Bill Brewster (right) and Kevin Swaffer
Bill Brewster (right) and Kevin Swaffer

AFTER notching up a combined total of 65 years service as retained firefighters, two of the town’s longest-serving crew members are calling it a day.

Watch manager Bill Brewster, 57, of Cookson Gardens, and crew manager Kevin Swaffer, 51, of Old London Road, have attended most of the major incidents in Hastings’ recent history, while both holding down demanding day jobs.

They have decided to go out on a high note, and retire from the fire service at the end of this year.

Bill, who is head of engineering for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We have enjoyed every single solitary minute of it. We know that because of our actions, we have made a difference, looking after the community that we live in.”

They remember the major fires at Fads, and Queen’s Arcade, and when Hastings Pier was set alight in October 2010, Bill and Kevin were among the crew members who spent nearly three days fighting the fire.

The storms of the 1980s were especially busy times, and Bill was awarded the Chief Officers’ Commendation for the rescue of a lady who was trapped in the collapsed section of the Queens Hotel, while Kevin was hospitalised after being hit by a large wave during a rescue in Normans Bay.

More light-hearted moments have also stuck in their minds, such as rescuing a parrot from a house in the Old Town while it sung to them through the smoke.

The two men met in 1980, when Kevin, who is director of security firm Be Sure in Battle Road, joined The Ridge fire station as a retained firefighter, where Bill had already been based for three years.

Ever since then, they have also been best of friends off duty, to the extent that their families go on holiday together. It is no surprise therefore, that Bill and Kevin have decided to step down at the same time.

Bill added: “We are lucky enough to be in a position where we are fit and healthy, and up to date with every bit of training.

“At some point you have to have a change in lifestyle.

“It is better to leave when you choose, rather then when you are too tired to work.”

Their work as retained firefighters has meant thousands of call-outs over the years, at any time of the day or night, which has inevitably meant a significant amount of disruption to family life.

“Our biggest thanks go to our wives, because they have put up with a lot without any complaint,” Bill said.

“There have been many Christmases and birthdays that we have missed because we have been at fires.”

Bill, and his wife Nina, and Kevin, and his wife Sue, both have two grown-up sons, and are looking forward to catching up on family life with their new-found free time.