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Fire chief bows out after 35-year service
STATION commander Nigel Challis of Bridport has stepped down from the fire service after more than 35 years of service.
The Bridport chief was recognised in a ceremony at the Sea Road South station with colleagues and senior fire officers.
Nigel, 56, who is married to Audrey, said he would miss the comradery of his fellow firefighters but was not sure how he felt leaving the role behind.
“Bridport has dealt with some challenging incidents over the years, and more notably the last few months.
“It has made my role a lot easier knowing that some of the best firefighters in the country are stationed at Bridport.”
He added: “My wife Auds has known no different for the last 35 years as I was in the process of joining when we met so it will be a change for her also.”
Nigel, who works as maintenance manager at the Hyde in his day job, joined Dorset Fire Brigade in 1977 when the station was on the site of the present library in South Street.
He was promoted to leading fireman in 1992 and to sub-officer in 1997 before becoming station commander in 2003 following the retirement of Phil Tattershall.
“Which was a coincidence as it was Phil who encouraged me to join all those years ago,” said Nigel.
Nigel has been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal during his service.
He played a key role in providing fire cover at the sailing academy on Portland during the Olympics but said recent jobs also included the floods and landslides.
“I really enjoyed the Olympic experience and meeting people from all over the world. It provided a fantastic conclusion to my service.”
The Bridport station retained officers attend abut 300 incidents a year. Nigel estimates that he has attended thousands of incidents over his 35 years and said that car crashes are among the most worse to attend as they change motorists’ lives in a split second.
Nigel cites a huge heath fire at Upton, in Poole, last year as one of the biggest incidents he has been called to.
But he added: “And yes, we have rescued a cat from a tree. We have also rescued a dog trapped behind a garden shed and a car trapped under floorboards and lots of seagulls trapped in netting.”
Nigel said that the job has changed a lot from when he started in 1977 as equipment was very basic with no specialised gear for dealing with crashes, floods, chemical spills, radiation and such like. Nick Tuck is to take over as temporary station commander at Bridport for the next four-and-a-half months