Kyrle Probus Club
   of Ross-on-Wye


Firey Stories - May 3rd 2012


KYRLE Probus Club member and past president, Mike Knowles, was a Chief Fire Officer before he retired, but it was his early days in the fire service that was the subject of his talk to club members recently.


Mike joined the fire service in his home town of Smethwick in Staffordshire, early in 1963, in the middle of one of the coldest Winters on record. Smethwick was quite a busy station and Mike joined ‘Blue’ watch. On his first night on duty, they were called to a motor cycle crash and on his second night they had to deal with a fire at a chemical works.


In between calls, as a new recruit, he was given a number of tedious jobs, including cooking and cleaning. To keep fit, the men played five-aside football in the yard. Mike was a pretty handy table tennis player and was happy that of the 18 firemen on watch, 15 played table tennis


Mike said that at that time, wages in the fire service were not too good, so that most firemen did other jobs. He worked in a local garage, selling paraffin around Smethwick and West Bromwich . It was somewhat ironic that in his main job he had to help put out fires that had sometimes been caused by paraffin.


Mike recalled the first fire fatality that he came across. They had been called to a small house after a neighbour thought she had smelled smoke coming from it. When they went in, they came across a dead dog in the front room. They went into another room and found the body of a man on a bed.  His glasses had melted to his face.


Mike spoke of the accidents that sometimes happened with chimney fires and remembered being called to a fire at a mid-terrace house. Unfortunately one of the firemen put the hose reel down the wrong chimney, leaving the surprised next door neighbour not at all a happy man.




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