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TWO Melksham firefighters are celebrating 30 years of service to the town.
Firefighter, Peter Quadling, and watch manager, Steve Pearce, both joined the Melksham fire station, which is part of the Wiltshire Fire Brigade, in 1987. “It doesn’t seem like five minutes that we have been here, but obviously I’m a bit older now. It’s flown by!” said Peter, who also works as a print finisher for Superior Graphics in Bowerhill.
“I couldn’t do this without the backing of my family, my wife, my children, so a huge thank you to them. And apologies to my children as there have been times when I’ve had to let them down to go out on shouts. But they have always been so understanding.
“People don’t come into this job for the money, they do it for the love of the profession. It’s such a great team here in Melksham, there’s great camaraderie and support, which is a very important part of the job.
“My dad, Les Quadling, was also station officer here for 22 years and I joined just as he was leaving, so I feel like I’m continuing a family tradition.
“One memorable moment that sticks out was the hangar fire at Hullavington in 1991. When we were called to the station we could see the fire glowing all the way from the other side of Chippenham. I think that was the biggest fire in Wiltshire since the war at the time.
“There are almost too many memories to share. You just never know what you are going to be called out to. I remember one time not long after Steve and I joined, we spent a whole day digging a dog out of a badger hole!
“We get called out to all sorts, from road accidents through to house fires. People seem to think that as we are a retained station, we only do the smaller jobs, but we do exactly the same as any other brigade in the country. The Wiltshire Fire Service relies on retained stations like ours throughout the county.”
Watch manager, Steve Pearce, who also works for Keith Lye Garage in Bowerhill said, “It has gone by so quickly, in the blink of an eye! It’s been enjoyable, and I plan to stay here for a few more years, for as long as I am fit and capable.The job does get harder as you get older, especially getting up in the middle of the night for shouts. It takes you longer to recover.
“My memorable moments will be similar to Pete’s as we have done most things together. The fire at Caen Hill scrapyard and the hangar fire in Hullavington are definitely big ones I remember.
“So much has changed since we first started, more homes have smoked detectors and furniture is now made with safe materials, all helping decrease the number of house fires that we are called out to and saving lives.
“The equipment we use has changed a lot as well. When Pete and I first started, we used to wear plastic leggings and gloves, which would start melting if it got too hot.
“There is so much experience here in this station, altogether we’re just shy of 150 years’ experience between us.”
Although both Peter and Steve have no plans to move on just yet, new recruits are always welcome at the fire brigade, which is also celebrating 50 years of being stationed on Semington Road.
Steve said, “We are always looking for more people to join the crew from the local area. If you would like to find out more about the role, you can pop by on a Monday evening between 7-9pm or call the station on 07825 995765.”