Retiring Sussex firefighter recounts 2010 Hastings Pier fire

A retired Sussex firefighter has recounted the day he responded to the 2010 Hastings Pier fire.

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 1:00 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd October 2020, 11:31 am
Kevin will never forget the Hastings Pier fire in 2010, which he called a 'very surreal incident'. Photo: West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

Kevin Knight, 61, will step down as a frontline firefighter but, with years of expertise in fire prevention, will embark on a new job in community fire safety.

Kevin joined West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in 2003, as a retained (on-call) firefighter based at Shoreham Fire Station.

Having recently branched out as an independent financial advisor, and 'being his own boss', he decided he wanted to give something back to his local community and signed up to join the service.

Kevin Knight (right) joined West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in 2003. Photo: West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

Kevin said: “Back then I didn’t really know what a retained firefighter was, or that I could do it around my work as a financial advisor.

"But it was so different from what I was doing sat at my computer every day that it really worked for me.

"I would be sat there looking through reports, and the alerter would go off and I would be running out the door to the fire station.”

After four years as a retained firefighter, Kevin went wholetime and served at East Grinstead, before moving to Burgess Hill in 2012, and finally ending up on White Watch in Chichester, where he has served since 2015.

Kevin will never forget the Hastings Pier fire in 2010, which he called a 'very surreal incident'. Photo: West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

“Chichester is a very interesting station to serve at,” he said. “It’s a large fireground with a real mix of rural and urban areas, so you get a real variety of calls come in.”

Over the years, Kevin has tackled more fires, attended more road traffic collisions, and carried out more home fire safety visits than he can remember.

One of his more lasting memories with the service came in Lancing in 2006, when he worked through the night to bring a field full of hay bales on fire under control after an arsonist 'ran amok'.

Kevin will also never forget the Hastings Pier fire in 2010.

“It was a very surreal incident,” he said. “We kept hearing on the radio that they needed more water, and here we were with the whole ocean in front of us.

"So we were there pumping water out of the sea and up to the pier above us. But the tide was going out, so we were having to move the light portable pump further and further out into sea to keep up with the water!”

Kevin decided that it was time for a 'slight change of pace', bringing his years of expertise to help the service’s community fire safety team.

He said: “I have always enjoyed working in the community with people and making sure they get the help that they need. Over the years we have seen some truly tragic situations, so if we can prevent people from ending up in that position, then that really does make a difference.

“The fire service hasn’t really changed much over the years, there are still the same dedicated people working in the service – and that’s what makes it what it is.”

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