Popular firefighter Stephen Kendall has hung up his uniform for the last time and bid farewell to his watch at Fareham Fire Station.
The firefighter, nicknamed Badger for what-used-to-be grey streaks in his hair, served his last shift with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service today after nearly 30 years of service.
Stephen joined Hampshire Fire Brigade in September 1986, taking up his first post at Basingstoke in January 1997. He transferred to Fareham in 1991 and has served on blue watch until his retirement.
The 55-year-old, who was born in Fareham, said: ‘I have never had a day where I did not want to go to work.’
Stephen married his partner Su, who he has been with for eight years, last Saturday at a ceremony at St Nicholas Church in Wickham and they are looking forward to buying a new home in Wickham.
They have four-year-old twins together – Oliver and Jessica – and Stephen said he was looking forward to spending more time with them, as well as seeing his two older sons Matthew, 29, and Robert, 26, more.
He said: ‘My life is finishing with the fire service but it is just starting with Su.
‘We have so much going for us at the moment, life is really good and I am really optimistic for the future.’
The biggest and most memorable fires that he attended were the Digital Equipment Corporation building in Basingstoke that was destroyed by fire in March 1990 and the Shamrock Quay Boat Yard fire in Southampton in November 1998 which caused £5m worth of damage.
But Stephen said: ‘The best part was the camaraderie between the guys and how they all support each other.’
He thanked all of blue watch – Simon Whelan, Nobby Cole, Gary Cross, Mark Hilton, Ross Hutton and Ross Merry – and wished new member Pete Broomfield well.
The watch will see Stephen off in style today with a bike ride and pub crawl. A party is also being planned at Fareham Fire Station for April 18.
Station manager Daniel Miles said: ‘I wish him farewell and all the best for the future.’