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It's 'on yer bike' and into retirement for Wisbech fire boss Ady

Wisbech fire crew boss Ady Strowger has signed off after nearly 20 years in the service and in his “dream job”.

But it could have been more than double that if Ady had been just one inch taller.

His career was almost extinguished altogether because he was deemed ‘too short’ to join the service when he first applied after leaving school.

Ady and group commander Jamie Johnson
Ady and group commander Jamie Johnson

“I wanted to be a firefighter from when I was 12 and my parents took me to the cinema to see The Towering Inferno,” he said.

“After that it was all I wanted to do - to get to ride on the red fire engines and fight fires.

“But when I applied I didn’t fit the minimum height criteria of those days. I was just one inch too small so that was that.”

Ady heading off into retirement
Ady heading off into retirement

Ady went into an engineering apprenticeship but came out after a year because “it was just not for me.”

He did several driving jobs, investigated going into the RAF but fell into a career working with children in care and in children’s homes as well as working with individuals with learning difficulties.

Ady enjoyed the work but still had his name down on the holding list for the fire service.

It all changed when he went to an open day at Huntingdon fire station.

Plenty of memories for Ady Strowger
Plenty of memories for Ady Strowger

“I was 40 at the time so I was convinced I was too old and still too short but I was convinced to take the tests and to apply.

“I did a lot of swatting up and was still pretty fit and I passed. I completed the 12-weeks basic training and was sent to the station at Dogsthorpe, Peterborough for a year.”

He went to the Stanground base and then got a station posting to Wisbech and his first taste of life in the town.

He was transferred back to Huntingdon for eight years in which time he adding to his skills with water and boat rescue and animal rescue training and spent two years on call with the tactical delivery group.

“Lots of variety,” he said. But when there were some crewing gaps across the county and he was asked where he would like to be based he chose Wisbech and, after a spell at Ely, arrived at his chosen station - and stayed there.

He went there as a fire fighter but by the time he retired he had spent several years as crew commander.

“My home was always at Peterborough but Wisbech was where I always wanted to work so I lived in digs in the town when I was on shift.

“I enjoyed it all. It was a serious job but also a lot of fun.”

Ady says in that time, as well as fighting fires, he did his share of digging dogs out of rabbit holes and rescuing cats stuck in trees.

He recalls one memorable animal incident when his crew was called to rescue a cow in the river at |Guyhirn.

“I came up with the idea of putting stones in one of our metal buckets and giving them good rattle. The cow thought it was food and rescued itself. That was a trick that worked on more than one occasion,” he said.

He added: “I have enjoyed every posting but Wisbech has been the favourite without a shadow of doubt.”

So why retire at 61? It is partly down to motorbikes which were his passion alongside the fire service.

He has a shedful of them and as well as riding them and going to bike rallies, loves tinkering with them.

He has spent years with a friend working on old BMW bikes and had the opportunity to join him in his business.

“It was something I always wanted to do and I felt it was ready for more time at home with my wife Lynn, our family and our three dogs instead of living in digs four days a week,” said Ady.

He admits to being rather emotional when he wrote his resignation letter. “But once I had done I knew it was the right time,” he said.

Colleagues and Group Commander Jamie Johnson were there to wish Ady well on his last day and his final shift.

Jamie said: “Ady has been committed to serving the people of Peterborough, Ely, Huntingdon and Wisbech throughout his career – which spans almost 20 years, and we thank him for his contribution to keeping residents safe during the last two decades. We wish him all the best with his retirement.”

Ady drove off on one of his bikes with a sidecar full of memories to leave with and the pushbike strapped to the top was the one he used during the night to answer fire calls when his alerter went off.

“It has been a brilliant career. I loved it and if I could go back in time I would do it all again,” he said.

And Ady’s signing off message is: “I can assure the Wisbech community they are in safe hands with the crew at Wisbech Fire Station and always will be.”

The new crew commander at Wisbech is Matthew Beare.

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