Hitchin's Dennis looks back on 50 years with the Herts Fire and Rescue Service
PUBLISHED: 08:27 27 May 2018
©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved
Teamwork, comradeship, charity - this is just some of what's touched upon as a veteran Hitchin firefighter looks back on his 50 years in uniform.
Teamwork, comradeship, charity – this is just some of what’s touched upon as a veteran Hitchin firefighter looks back on his 50 years in uniform.
Dennis Wickham, who has been with the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service since January 1968, spent almost 37 years as an operational firefighter in Letchworth, Stevenage and Hitchin.
But his life of public service hasn’t stopped there. Since 2005, he has been part of the team that gives ‘safe and well’ visits to older and more vulnerable members of the community – making sure they can go on living safely in their own homes.
While on operations, Dennis took part in numerous fire rescues – including one in Kings Hedges on Hitchin’s Westmill estate, after which he and others were commended for rescuing a child.
Looking back on it all, Dennis told the Comet: “Teamwork plus comradeship play a big part in the fire service, as does the variety of incidents and the fact that you are helping people in their hour of need.
“It has been a privilege to serve the Herts Fire and Rescue Service and the public for 50 years.”
Dennis spent his first year as a firefighter at the old Letchworth station in Eastcheap, before spending five years at Stevenage. He was then based at Hitchin Fire Station for three decades.
“Hitchin was considered a family station where everyone lived around the station,” said Dennis.
“In the early years a lot of our spare time was committed to the Fire Service Benevolent Fund in the form of carol singing on an old open-top fire appliance, jumble sales, and what at the time were called Fire Fayres.
“The emphasis was on everything fire service – old appliances, new appliances – which were attended by the public. Fire Fayre grew into being an annual event, which outgrew the station premises so it went to a bigger site in Hitchin.
“Most firefighters are involved in charity events on a regular basis, which is part of their character.”
Dennis’ role for the last 13 years has been as a home safety technician, part of what he says is the biggest change in the service since he started 50 years ago.
“We mainly visit vulnerable people in their homes and make sure they are safe from a fire – and ensuring they are in touch with the right agencies, social services, adult care and so on, to enable them to continue living at home in a safe environment,” he said.
“This part of the service is the biggest change in the job over the years, as the service is now focused on community fire safety with home safety visits carried out by operational staff as well as technicians like myself. Everyone is now committed to a proactive role.”
In conclusion, Dennis said: “I would like to mention the personnel I have served with over the years – who have been not only professional but inspirational in their attitude towards the service. That also includes the people who at present I am working with.
“I would also like to thank my lovely wife Lyn, who has been on this long journey with me.”
Those saluting Dennis on his half-century milestone include Hertfordshire’s chief fire officer, Darryl Keen.
He told the Comet: “It is a privilege to work with a firefighter who has already dedicated 50 years of service to keeping the community of Hertfordshire safe, and who continues to remain such a valued member of the team.
“Dennis joined the service back in 1968 and has held a number of roles since that time, including working operationally at Letchworth, Stevenage and Hitchin fire stations, and since 2005 has been a vital part of the team that carry out safe and well visits in residents’ homes.
“This is a significant milestone and I feel privileged to have staff as committed as Dennis working alongside me.”