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Fochabers firefighter Stuart Jenkins hangs up helmet after nearly 50 years protecting community

Stuart Jenkins was first approached to be a firefighter in Fochabers because the station commander at the time thought his experience would make him a natural.

It wasn’t his skills in fighting flames or acts of bravery that made him stand out in the village.

Instead, the fire chief in 1973 thought the then 19-year-old’s talents as a painter and decorator would make him a natural on ladders.

An incredible 47 years later, Mr Jenkins, 66, has only just hung up his helmet after a career helping countless families in his home community.

During that time he helped people while they were at their lowest as well as helping to nurture several generations of new lifesavers.

Listening for the firefighter call

In nearly half a century as a retained firefighter Mr Jenkins never once considered leaving his post at the fire station in Fochabers, which he has lived just metres from for 30 years.

He said: “It was a family friend who asked me to join. When I left school I became a painter with my father, he figured I must be alright with ladders.

Stuart Jenkins at the wheel of one of the fire engines.

“Back then we still had the sirens at the station tower for when there was a call, there were none of these bleepers we have now, you had to live close enough to hear the siren between 10.30pm and 6.30am.

“They were so noisy those sirens, we also had bells in the house, things have got better over time in that regard.

“My first uniform was black with, no joke, a cork hat. The gear now is amazing.

“Helping people was why I wanted to get involved and that was all I ever wanted to do. It was just what you did back then.”

The Fochabers ‘human sat-nav’

In recent years the father-of-two has helped run training at the Speyside fire station to ensure the newer recruits are ready to respond.

And while travelling to emergencies Mr Jenkins assumed the nickname of the “human sat-nav” among his fellow firefighters for his intimate knowledge of the Fochabers area.

He said: “That was part of the job back then, you had to know where you were going.”

Through the decades as a retained firefighter Mr Jenkins responded to countless incidents across the Fochabers area.

However, it is the response to an emergency away from his home community that holds the most vivid memories.

Retained firefighter Stuart Jenkins has retired from his position at Fochabers Fire Station.

He said: “A few of us were sent up to Shetland for a weekend in the early 1990s because there was a fire on a big Russian fish factory ship.

“It had been going for days and we were flown up from Aberdeen to give the Inverness crew a hand.

“It had taken an awful hold, it was a disaster of a thing. We never saw the captain once, he was in his own little domain on his bridge.

“It was awful, we would get stood down at some points and then it would flare up again and we’d have to go back in.

“We had proper breathing apparatus but the Russian crew only had a mask, a double-tank on their back with a rubber tube. It was just pitiful really.

“We didn’t get it right out in the end, we were only there for two days and got flown back.”

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