HE’S been a familiar face in the community for years and now Fareham fire station manager Paul Coates is finally hanging up his hat after a 29-year career.
The 50-year-old took over running the station seven years ago.
And he worked his last shift on Monday and the character – dubbed Brad Pitt by co-workers because of his confidence – is looking forward to putting his energy into boosting his fitness and running with Fareham Crusaders.
Paul, of Eagle Close, said: ‘I’m definitely going to miss it.’
Originally from Yorkshire, Paul joined the fire service in January 1985.
Before that he was in the Royal Navy for seven years, serving on four ships – HMS Sheffield, HMS Arrow, RFA Fort Austin and HMS Esk in the Falklands.
On leaving the navy, he landed a job with the fire service and his career began at Eastleigh fire station.
He said the first rescue he did was memorable for more reasons than one.
‘She’d had a few beers, put the chip pan on and went to sleep,’ he said.
‘I had to rescue her by putting her over my shoulder.
‘All she had on was a bra, stockings and suspenders.’
Paul served at fire stations in Southsea, Cosham, Gosport and Woolston.
He spent three years working at the Fire Service College in Gloucestershire as well as working at Stoke Hospital learning to fly with the Air Ambulance and at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service headquarters in Eastleigh setting up the Maritime Incident Response Group.
As station manager in Fareham, he set up a new shift pattern and introduced the specialist water rescue unit.
Paul was present when the Queen opened the new headquarters.
But it is the people that he will miss most, both at the station and in the community.
He said: ‘Being in the fire service was worth it for all the people that we have saved from fires or pulled from car crashes, but it’s all about having good people with you.’
He said there were times when he has seen gas explosions, had to give CPR at the scene of car accidents, witnessed people becoming trapped in houses, fallen through floors, watched factories go up in smoke and waded through floods.
But he won’t be too far away from the fire service.
His new job will see him working for FireAid, a company that advises on ship fires.
Simon Whelan, blue watch manager at Fareham, said: ‘Paul was well respected and very knowledgeable. He’ll be missed, without a doubt.’