Retained High Peak firemen honoured for decades of service

Crew manager Mark Hotchin, back right, was awarded his long service medal from Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire, Colonel John Wilson OBE.
Crew manager Mark Hotchin, back right, was awarded his long service medal from Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire, Colonel John Wilson OBE.

“It’s a funny old business” is how one retained fireman who has been honoured for three decades of service would describe the job.

Robert Hancock, 62, of Jubilee Road in Chapel-en-le-Frith, attended the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Awards to mark his 30 years with the retained station.

Robert Hancock, left, with councillor Steve Marshall-Clarke.

Robert Hancock, left, with councillor Steve Marshall-Clarke.

Mark Hotchin, 42 of Burbage, is also a retained fire fighter and has received a medal for long service and good conduct for his 20 years with Buxton.

Robert joined because he wanted something physical to complement his office job at Ferodo and he already knew people who worked in the retained sector.

“I just thought I’d give it a go, and time has flown by.”

Robert, who is married with children and grandchildren, said he has seen things that will never leave him.

He said: “The first fatality you attend stays with you for ever.

“Mine was in the winter and a woman’s car had skidded on the ice as she was driving to work and she didn’t survive.”

However, it is the camaraderie that keeps Robert going.

“I work with a great team who keep your spirits up when the job gets tough,” he said.

“There is an element of shock when you first see fire, you can be trained but when it is there in front of you as a blazing inferno it stops you in your tracks.

“Nothing prepares you for the smell of a burning building. It gets in your skin and your clothes and takes forever to get rid of it.

“However, over time there is a sense of professional detachment and you have to get the job done and there isn’t time to think.”

Being part of a retained crew means living five minutes away from the station and being ready to go out in the middle of the night or leave a family meal.

“That’s just how it is,” said Robert, “it’s a funny old business you can’t wait for jobs and put your life on hold you just have to get on with it.”

Mark, who joined in April 1995, agreed.

He said: “It can be tough because you can make plans for the days you aren’t on call but if you get a late shout call out the night before you end up sleeping most of the day and your great plans haven’t happened.”

Robert says he has seen so many avoidable accidents.

“When you come back from a night in the pub, please order a take away. People get food started and then they fall asleep and carelessness leads to fires.”

Robert added: “It’s a great job and one I enjoy doing, it keeps you active and it keeps you young.”

Mark started in his 20s and was called out almost every day during the hot summer. He also dealt with the floods in 1997. He worked from 8.30 in the morning right through until 11pm .

He said: “When the pager goes off the adrenaline kicks in and because of that and how every shout out is different it has kept my attention and enthusiasm.”

The dad-of-two wanted to thank his family and friends for their support over the years.

He added: “The last 20 years have gone so quick, when I started I was the newbie and looking up to the guys with years and years of experience under their belts - now I’m that guy.”