Bideford’s fire station commander is hanging up his helmet to retire after 38 years.

Bruce Lesslie first joined as a fire fighter at Bideford station on July 29, 1981, and has been at the station ever since. He will be retiring at the end of this month.

Bruce worked as a fire fighter until 1999, until he took on the role of sub officer temporarily. In 2003 he adopted this role permanently, and in 2011 he became station commander.

Bruce has had many highs and lows in his career; his first job wearing breathing apparatus was a fatal fire in Buttgarden Street.

Another incident which stuck out in Bruce’s mind was a collision near Parkham, where the injured man turned out to be his neighbour. But one of his career highs has been running the Out of the Blue project working with young people, something he will be continuing to work on during his retirement from the service.

Station commander Bruce Lesslie on his last drill night at Bideford Fire Station. Picture: Sarah HowellsStation commander Bruce Lesslie on his last drill night at Bideford Fire Station. Picture: Sarah Howells

He said: “When I shadowed in Ilfracombe before we started doing it here, I had a tear in my eye seeing what a difference it had made to one particular lad.

“I thought it was worth it to see what it’s done for one guy.

“It’s been a pleasure doing this job and I’ve really enjoyed every moment of it.

“Sometimes I wish I was 20 years younger and could carry on but I can’t do it forever, and they are a great bunch here who I know will look after Bideford.”

Graham Rooke, station manager, praised Bruce for his long service and hard work.

He said: “Bruce has dedicated 38 years to the local community and has made a tangible difference to countless people’s lives in that time.

“He has always been a calming influence in all different types of incident and that has just got to be commended. He is going to be a massive loss to the station.”

Assistant chief fire officer Pete Bond also paid tribute to Bruce.

He said: “Your presence at an incident always gave me a sense of confidence and I have valued your advice and support when I have been the incident commander at various jobs.”

Chris Smailes, who will be taking up the station commander role jointly with Neil Hole, added: “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity after working closely with Bruce, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.”

A celebration will be held for Bruce on October 6 at Pannier Pantry in Bideford, at 7pm.