A MEMBER of the Chobham fire crew has hung up his helmet and boots for the last time after more than three decades of being constantly on alert to attend emergencies.
Tim Silk, 55, is now relaxing without fear of having to drop whatever he’s doing and rush off on a call-out.
Tim, of Oakdene, Chobham, retired from the Surrey Fire & Rescue Service on Friday last week, completing 32-and-a-half years as a part-time firefighter.
No other Chobham crew member has clocked up this number of years in recent times and his service could be a village record.
Life outside Tim’s full-time job as a lorry driver was governed by the radio pager he carried – if it bleeped he had four minutes to get to the station in Bagshot Road.
Sleep and meals were interrupted, DIY jobs left unfinished, social gatherings abandoned and family outings postponed as duty had to come first. But there was much to gain to balance the disruption.
“It was a big contrast to my full-time job,” Tim told the News & Mail. “Every call was different. They were never the same, even what would appear to be a simple grass fire.
“The call could be anything from a house on fire to an aircraft crash and every job had to be dealt with in a particular way. You could never make assumptions.”
Tim works on a night shift at Heathrow Airport, driving an articulated lorry to deliver supplies to catering concessions. This meant he could be on call during the day on weekdays, helping keep the station’s engine available.
“I enjoyed doing something for the community and got a lot of satisfaction from helping people when they were in trouble,” he said. “Some of the calls, such as car crashes, weren’t pleasant but I always felt it was a worthwhile job.”
Tim and his wife Belinda have five children and four grandchildren. Spending more time with his family will be a benefit of his retirement, as will having more time to play golf.
His most memorable fire call was the blaze that all but destroyed the Clandon Park stately home in January last year.
He explained: “We weren’t far away as we were dealing with a false alarm at Send, and were the fourth appliance to arrive.”
Tim was one of the volunteers who rescued regimental colours from the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment museum in the mansion.
He and other firefighters were later summoned to a reception at the Tower of London, where they were presented with regimental ties as a thank you.
The biggest fires he attended in Chobham were the incidents at the Metco factory and the NFT distribution centre and, of course, there were countless calls to heathland blazes all over Surrey.
Tim was recruited in 1984 by his father-in-law, Ron Warren, the then officer-in-charge at Chobham. It would seem that was the start of a family tradition, as Tim’s son Danny is now going through the recruitment procedure to work at Chobham Fire Station.
Danny, 25, lives with his parents so, while his father has handed in his pager, there could still be a lot of bleeping in the house.
Meanwhile, Belinda has a ‘to do’ list for her husband, including mending the extension roof, house decorating and taking a huge pile of rubbish to the dump…