Richard King (48) is now a free man after spending the last 25 years waiting for the call that would see him transform into an all-action firefighter.
No more call-outs to an inferno in Sutton Bridge, a pub blaze in Gosberton or a tractor alight in Tydd Gote, sometimes at the expense of the children’s school play, family day out or daily dog walking.
Instead, Richard can spend more time with his wife Joanne, four children, two grandchildren, two pet dogs and his stonemasonry business after hanging up his red firefighter’s outfit for good last Friday.
Richard said: “A combination of things has made me decide that I just had to stop.
“My business (Richard King Memorials of Long Sutton) has become incredibly busy and I was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on both jobs.
“I found that I had no family time at all, bearing in mind how busy we were at Long Sutton Fire Station last year.
“We were getting two to three calls a day, compared to between 120 and 150 calls a year when I first started in 1992, with a full crew.
“Now, we have nine crew members, all with full-time jobs and family commitments.
“If circumstances were different, I’d still be in the job.
“But my family have suffered because of my desire to be the best retained firefighter I possibly could for the Long Sutton station, something which played quite heavily on my mind.”
My family have suffered because of my desire to be the best retained firefighter I possibly could for the Long Sutton station, something which played quite heavily on my mindRichard King, retired watch manager, Long Sutton Fire Station
A large part of Richard’s life has been taken up with being a retained (on-call) firefighter, as opposed to wholetime firefighters who work on a shift basis and have no other employment.
In contrast, Richard had to combine his family, personal and business life with the reality of being on-call to attend any incident, including fires, floods, road traffic collisions and chemical spills.
According to the UK Fire Service Resources Group: “Each retained firefighter carries a pocket alerter which is activated when they are needed.
“They have a maximum of five minutes to report to the fire station and mobilise the necessary appliance(s). Retained firefighters will have other occupations but when the call comes, they drop whatever they are doing and become part of a team.
“Depending on the type of cover given, a retained firefighter may respond from home and/or work, day and/or night.”
Richard said: “I was persuaded to join the fire service by a couple of friends who were already firefighters.
“I was quite keen to give it a go, so much so that I tried to get on the two-day training course you used to have in Grantham on the same weekend as my wedding.
“At first, it didn’t affect my social life as a keen fisherman, golfer and going to watch football.
“But there’s been a gradual increase in the demand on my time over the last ten years which culminated in Long Sutton Fire Station having a record year for call-outs (914 in 2016).
“Many of them were due to medical emergencies in the local area, such as taking people to hospital.”
Among the highlights of Richard’s 25 years of firefighting include the award of Beacon Status to Long Sutton Fire Station in 2014 when it also became the first one in Lincolnshire to pilot a Joint Ambulance Conveyance Project.
In 2016, Richard was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year’s Honours List “for services to Fire and Rescue and to Emergency Medical Care”.
He said: “It was a complete shock and I was absolutely dumbstruck, but it was mainly for my wife and taking her to Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Garden Party last year was the best moment of my career.”
As for the future, Richard has more time for family, friends, fishing and stonemasonry to look forward to.
But he said: “I’ll miss the camaraderie of going out on calls with the lads.”
The selfless service Richard King BEM has given to Long Sutton and South Holland as a retained firefighter has been recognised by civic leaders.
Coun Charles Moore, chairman of Long Sutton Fire Council of which Richard is vice-chairman, said: “The council would like to say a special thank you to Richard, our now retired lead firefighter for the town, whose services will be greatly missed.”
Coun Jack Tyrrell, South Holland District Council member for Long Sutton, said: “I wish Richard all the best in his retirement which is well-deserved for the great impact he has made over 25 years of service.
“Richard worked to retain an ambulance service in Long Sutton and saw a future in bringing the LIVES First Responders and East Midlands Ambulance Service together that I feel will only protect the town’s fire station.”
Coun Laura Eldridge, South Holland District Council member for Long Sutton, said: “A few words of appreciation cannot put into words what Richard King BEM has done in 25 years of service to his community, and the sacrifices both him and his family have made so he can help other people.
“Over the years, Richard has done so much for local people and pushed so hard to get the ambulance which, thanks to him and the team, has helped hundreds of people.
“After the sacrifices both he and his family have made over the years, the evenings’ out he has missed and inevitable family events, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you from the bottom of my heart and enjoy your much-deserved retirement from the fire service.”
Coun Chris Brewis, Lincolnshire County Council member for Sutton Elloe: “Long Sutton’s retained fire and rescue team, a key part of our local community for so many years, has gone from strength to even more strength under Richard’s leadership.
“It was no accident that Long Sutton was chosen as one of the first three stations in the country for the Joint Ambulance Conveyance Project which has seen hundreds of people reached more quickly than used to be the case.
“One can only wish Richard all the best and hope that the next station ‘chief’ can carry on fulfilling the role he has done so ably and well.”