Firefighting ‘part of who I am’ says Dave

Dave Stokes, who is retiring as station commander at Hemel Hempstead Fire Station.
Dave Stokes, who is retiring as station commander at Hemel Hempstead Fire Station.

The fire station commander in Hemel Hempstead is retiring after 40 years spent protecting the public.

Dave Stokes says he will miss the people most when he leaves Herts Fire and Rescue Service, but he will also have the daily dilemma of deciding what to wear.

“For 40 years I’ve not had to worry about what clothes to wear,” he said. “My wife says she’s going to take me shopping.”

Dave was born in Hillingdon but the family moved to Stevenage with Kodak, where his father worked, in 1959.

He joined the fire service at the age of 16 after toying with a career in the Army.

The 56-year-old has worked across most of the county at different stations, moving to Hemel Hempstead in 2009, and has become an expert in fire investigation.

“I’ve never regretted being part of the service. It’s part of who I am, which is going to be difficult for me when I retire,” the married father-of-two said.

“I’m extremely proud to have served in the fire service as long as I have and it has also been a privilege.”

Dave was part of the team that fought the 2005 Buncefield blaze and last year he was handed the Herts Constabulary Award for this fire investigation work, a part of the job where he describes himself as ‘a complete anorak’.

He says the low points of his career were the deaths of two firefighters in a flat fire at Harrow Court, Stevenage, in 2005 – when he was station commander there – and the death of his close friend firefighter Paul Mallaghan on A1(M) when he was hit by a car as he tackled a vehicle fire in 2007.

“It never leaves you, when you unfortunately can’t do anything,” he said. “You never get hardened to it.”