Following an extraordinary 40 years of continuous service at Swanage Fire Station, its station officer is retiring after becoming one of the longest-serving firefighters in Dorset.
Swanage man Phil Burridge first became an on-call firefighter in 1982 at the age of 19 years, progressing his way up to station officer in 2001, while also working full time in other jobs.
A big Swanage send off for Phil Burridge after 40 years of service
One of the longest-serving firefighters in Dorset
A reception was held on Tuesday 27th June 2023 at Swanage Fire Station to mark the end of Phil’s remarkable 40 year career.
Special guest was Dorset and Wiltshire chief fire officer Ben Ansell, along with fire crews from Wareham, Dorchester, Bere Regis and of course Swanage.
The chief fire officer paid tribute to Phil’s dedication adding that his impact had been immeasurable and it was not a coincidence that Swanage Fire Station was held in such high regard but that it was down to Phil’s immense leadership. He said:
“Remaining in any role for 40 years is an impressive commitment, but on-call firefighters and their families make a huge commitment to their communities. Call outs can mean missing meals, family occasions and other events, but also saving lives.
“I want to say thank you to Phil and his family – Yvonne, Chris and Ryan, on behalf of the residents of Swanage, the Isle of Purbeck, and across our wider service area, for his dedication to keeping them safe.
“Everyone at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service wishes Phil a long and happy retirement – without the sound of a pager!”
Phil (left) with chief fire officer for Dorset and Wiltshire Ben Ansell (right)
Phil with his wife Yvonne and his two sons with their families
“I really owe everything to my family”
Handing over to Phil to say a few words, the chief fire officer quipped that tonight he was really only Debbie Harry to Phil’s Elton John – the star performer!
While Elton John chose Glastonbury to say his goodbyes, Phil took centre stage at Swanage Fire Station. He said:
“I really owe everything to my family for keeping me going. I’ve been married to Yvonne for 38 years who has supported me throughout my fire service career and deserves a medal for putting up with me running away at the drop of a hat.
“In 1997 I was on duty and a fire extinguisher exploded and I ended up unconscious in hospital. When I came round, one of my first memories was of my newborn son. I was off work for about six months. Without family what would I do?
“But all of you firefighters, you are all part of the family and hopefully I will stay as part of your family. We’ve had our ups and downs but I’m very proud to be part of this family. Enjoy your life in the fire service and thank you very much!”
Firefighters from Wareham, Bere Regis, Dorchester and Swanage all gathered for the special occasion
Nick Corben (left) now takes over as Swanage Fire Station officer from Phil (right)
Handing over to Nick Corben
Throughout his time with the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, Phil has juggled his fire service commitments with his day job, initially as a butcher in Swanage and currently as a fire safety consultant for the NHS.
He’s handing over to Nick Corben, who will become the new station officer with Amanda Tatchell stepping up as his deputy.
Phil in earlier years
At the Wareham Forest fire in 2020 it was all hands to the pump
“Wanted to be a fireman since I was a small boy”
Speaking earlier, Phil recounted his long career:
“I joined Dorset Fire Brigade as a 19 year old fresh faced fireman on the 28th of September 1982 after I’d wanted to be a fireman since I was a small boy. The first few drill sessions were spent learning the basic firefighting skill required to take a rider’s test, that was the requirement to ride a fire engine in those days.
“About a month later, on the 3rd November, after passing the rider’s test, my first fire call was received to a barn fire on Kingston hill near Corfe Castle. I was on the second appliance which was an old Bedford appliance with bifold doors and the rear facing seats and a wooden Bailey ladder on the roof.
“To my disappointment on arrival there was no massive blaze to extinguish as the farmer had already extinguished a small amount of hay with a garden hose!”
Phil (helmet top left) attended the collision of a car with a Swanage Railway steam locomotive on Boxing Day 1999. Remarkably no one was seriously injured
A fire in 2002 at the well known fish and chip shop in Swanage was one of the incidents that Phil attended
Many memorable fires
During his time in the fire service Phil has served under five chief fire officers and attended many incidents – too many to mention!
However there were some memorable large fires including a 25 pump incident on Studland Heath where a vehicle was destroyed due to the speed of the wind, taking the fire straight across the front of the appliance.
“I also attended the Ebn Magid ship fire at Portland in 1986, which was a very cold and dangerous incident that we returned to on three separate occasions over four days.
“And there was the large fire at Athelhampton House near Puddletown in 1992, where two members of our crew were hospitalised with bad burns after the roof collapsed on them whilst they were firefighting.
“In December 1995, I was promoted to leading firefighter, and then sub officer in June 1998 and finally achieved my ambition of becoming a station officer in July 2001.
“One of the most memorable fires I attended as station officer/incident commanders was in 2003 at a large house in St Anthony’s Road in Bournemouth. At the same time there was an eight pump fire in progress at Burger King at Tower park in Poole, so we were initially sent to stand by at Westbourne.
“Just as we were making a cup of tea, we were sent to the house fire. One member of the family jumped from the first floor window, two elderly members of the family were rescued via ladders and the first team of firefighters to try and get to the first floor had to withdraw due to the heat melting their helmets.
“Other incidents of note were fires at the Fish Plaice in Swanage in 2002, at Upton Heath which took 26 pumps to tackle and I attended both Lytchett Minster School fires.
“There were also fires at hotels on the East Cliff at Bournemouth, a large industrial unit at Ferndown, and of course the Wareham Forest fire in 2020, which was memorable due to the size and length of time to extinguish the fire during a global pandemic.”
The Swanage Fire Station on-call firefighters
Estate agent Nick Corben (left) will take over as station officer with Amanda Tatchell (right) as his deputy. Mandy works full time as a firefighter at nearby Westbourne station and is then on-call for Swanage when she gets back home
Proud of achievements
As well as being on-call, Phil has also volunteered to carry out many hundred home safety visits, school visits, and given many talks about fire safety and the history of Swanage Fire Station.
Phil says that he is proud of what he’s achieved and pleased to be leaving the station in safe hands. He said:
“Being the fire station officer has given me a great deal of satisfaction – able to help not only the town of Swanage but Dorset. Not just the fighting of fires but also making sure that Swanage Station is crewed and available to attend incidents. I’ve trained many firefighters and I’m leaving behind a very professional team.
“When I go, there will be only 14 firefighters left and we would like to recruit more. Anyone over the age of 18 can be a firefighter. It gives you a great sense of achievement, you get a lot of training that allows you to further your own knowledge and you help people be safe.
“I think the most rewarding bit about being a firefighter is knowing that you’re helping others and making a positive difference to people’s lives.”
Training is every Tuesday night
The official handover of the long service shield and certificate with chief fire officer Ben Ansell (left) and Phil (right)
“Continue to contribute to the local community”
So what next for Phil?
“I’m looking forward to spending more time at home with my family including my three grandchildren but firstly, I’m going on a cruise with my wife.
“Then when I’m back, I want to continue to contribute to the local community. I have a few ideas but you’ll have to wait and see!”
Phil receiving the traditional water dousing on his departure. He thought he’d got away with it but was lured back the next day under false pretences!
- Anyone interested in joining the crew at Swanage can find out more on the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service website or by contacting the station (opposite St Mary’s Church on Kings Road West) where the crew train every Tuesday evening from 6.30 pm