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Farewell to 44 years of firefighting

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By Newsdesk
Annan and Eskdale
Farewell to 44 years of firefighting

ONE of Annan’s longest serving firefighters is retiring after more than four decades of service to his local community.

Watch commander Kenny Simmons worked his final shift for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) last week – almost exactly 44 years after joining the Dumfries and Galloway Brigade in January 1978.

He said: “On average Annan attends about 200 calls a year, which means there was potential for about 8000 calls during my time.

“Now I did not attend all of them, but I have probably been at about 75 per cent of them – from the early days where I remember one child who got their head stuck in a rocking duck, to cats stuck up trees, to serious road crashes.”

One of the most challenging callouts of his career came in 1988 when he was called to attend the Lockerbie air distaster, carrying out difficult tasks of victim identification alongside his general firefighting duties.

For this work he was awarded a Firemaster’s commendation, and the following year he was promoted to the rank of lead firefighter.

In 1998 he was promoted again, this time becoming Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Annan station – a role he would go on to fulfil for 24 years.

He said: “I will miss the camaraderie and the banter, I’m very grateful for all the people I have served alongside over the years.

“My bosses have always supported me too which just makes you appreciate what a good service we have here in Dumfries and Galloway — not just within the fire service but with our emergency service colleagues too, we all work well together as a team.”

Kenny’s work always extended beyond his general duties, and he was keen to use his experience to help improve the fire service and increase safety in the local community.

In 2000 he was a founding member of Annandale and Eskdale Safe and Healthy Action Partnership (SHAP), where he led and delivered numerous safety campaigns.

He was also called on to assist the Scottish Fire and Rescue Advisory Unit to help improve service provision across Scotland.

As if these commitments were not enough, Kenny also found time to take on a voluntary post as assistant area coordinator for the Firefighter’s Charity, helping to raise both funds and awareness.

His dedication and commitment was royally recognised in 2017, when he was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal for distinguished service.

He was also asked to represent SFRS at the Remembrance commemoration at London’s cenotaph.

Kenny continued: “My family has combined service to Dumfries and Galloway Fire Service of over 130 years, it’s quite scary when you add it up like that.

“It was hard work and challenging work but it was enjoyable work too, just the satisfaction of working with people and helping people.

“We don’t ask for anything, we are just doing our job, but when you get that thank you from someone you have helped that means more to the crews than anything else.”

In a small celebration at Annan Fire Station last Thursday Kenny was presented with a certificate and commemorative axe in recognition of his long service.

His colleagues described him as a “trusted advisor and diligent professional”, who “led Annan station by example”.

Asked what he plans to do with his retirement, he said: “Probably wind my wife up! She worked for the fire service too and we were always on alternate shift patterns, so I’m looking forward to spending more time with her and my family.

“I’ll probably keep myself busy with bits and pieces, I’m one of those people that just cannot sit still.

“I’m fortunate to have had a great career and a great life, so I’ll just keep living it to the max.”

RETIRAL . . . Kenny Simmons pictured with some of his colleagues on his last night at the Annan Fire Brigade station
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