As a key member of West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service Darren Bagley’s decision-making has got to be spot on.
His colleagues’ lives can depend upon him making the correct judgment when to commit firefighters to burning buildings.
But now, after 31 years in the service, Darren, 49, watch commander at Huddersfield Fire Station, is getting ready to hang up his uniform.
It will be an emotional moment for him as he says goodbye to colleagues for the last time and prepares for a new life.
Aged 19 he applied to join both fire and police services back in 1985 – and says he can’t remember now why he chose the fire service.
“When I applied there were 7,500 people applying but only 15 jobs,” he said. “I got one of them and my first day at training school was January 6, 1986 at Birkenshaw. I was nervous, very nervous.
“It was very hard work for three months. Afterwards I was posted to White Watch at Batley, a brand new station which has now been demolished.
“I did 16 years as a firefighter in Batley. It was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The sense of humour over there was slightly different, very blunt and down to earth.”
In May 2002 Darren was promoted to leading firefighter at Leeds and spent seven years there.
Other promotions followed and he eventually ended up as watch commander at Huddersfield responsible for three crew commanders and 12 firefighters though this has now been reduced to eight firefighters and two crew commanders.
Darren, a father-of-two, added: “It was an absolute honour to get the old-fashioned station officer rank. If you got promoted any further you had to stop riding fire engines and I always wanted to keep my hand in.
“I like to feel part of the team, the camaraderie and having a laugh is very important to me. It’s not all about status, and rank and money. I was temporary watch commander for two to three years and made permanent at the end of 2012.”
Inevitably there have been huge changes down the years and Darren said: “The technology we have on fire engines today has changed massively but I think we overdo it on the technology sometimes.
“The hardest bit about being watch commander is your responsibility for the lads – not only the public – arriving at an incident. It’s the people who work under you, taking that instant decision.
“You are always the first there. For senior people coming afterwards the hardest decisions have already been made.”
As to the future he is a specialist in making replica medieval and Tudor furniture and also made replica arrows used in the Battle of Agincourt. Not many firefighters can say that!