Firefighter Kevin Sykes is retiring from his role after more than 40 years service at Holmfirth fire station.
Kevin, 62, who lives at Wooldale, followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father by becoming a retained fireman.
As well as being on call, his grandfather, Harry Sykes, was caretaker at Holmfirth Technical College, while Kevin’s father Roy Sykes worked in transport maintenance for John Turner Engineering.
On leaving school, Kevin worked at Holmfirth Vauxhall dealer Midlothian Garage in the bodyshop and rose to become bodyshop manager in 1980. He joined the fire service as a retained firefighter in 1986.
Said Kevin: “I had to get permission from the garage owner, John Bowden, who was very community-spirited and sanctioned it straight away. If he hadn’t, I might never have joined the service.”
Retained firefighters undergo the same training as their full-time colleagues and must pass twice-yearly fitness tests. They also have to keep up to date with technological developments.
"It has become a lot more scientific now," said Kevin. “Firefighting has become more proactive than reactive with more technology involved. We don’t get as many severe incidents now because houses are built a lot stronger, there are stricter building regulations with smoke alarms. Cars are a lot safer and notorious junctions have been improved.”
Kevin said recruiting retained firefighters was getting harder. “When I joined, we had all the mills and every firefighter lived in Holmfirth working at the mills or having their own business,” he said. “Everyone was within running distance of the fire station. Now, more people commute to work and it is harder to commit to the training.”
Kevin said: “The most fulfilling part of the job is when there’s a happy outcome - when you’ve rescued someone’s beloved animal that got trapped.”
Recalling one unusual incident, Kevin said: “One morning we got a message about a cow stuck in a bath. We went out to a field where there was a cast iron bath that the farmer had to put water in for the animals. There was a half-grown cow, which had run down the field, slipped and become wedged in the bath.”
Kevin is married to Susan, who works part-time at Holme Valley Memorial Hospital. The couple have sons Gavin and Lee, a daughter Anna and grandchildren Caleb, Alicia and Zachary. Kevin, who retires from the fire service in early May, enjoys spending time with the grandchildren and walking his border collie, Millie.