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After 45 years Jim would do it all again

Jim Moar started his career with the fire service back in October 1971 - Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgaet Media

LERWICK man Jim Moar has retired from the town’s retained fire service after 45 years of commitment to the community.

Earlier this week he handed back his bleeper and vacated his watch manager’s office at the Sea Road station. And later this month he will also vacate his manager’s desk at Hay & Co Buildbase in Lerwick.

Moar was just 18 when he joined the town’s fire service in October 1971, which at that time operated from an old tin shed near the docks at Grantfield.

It was easy to join then as you just had to be “okay” and be accepted by the 12 other guys, Moar recalls as he looks back over four and half decades of distinguished service, which earned him an MBE in the Queen’s 2007 New Year’s honours list.

The 63 year old estimates that over the years he has been called out between 5,000 and 6,000 times, initially with an old-fashioned fire siren and bells fitted in people’s houses, and later with a bleeper that could go off at any time of the day.

Moar recalls some serious fires and other emergencies in and around Lerwick, which often stretched the men’s physical and psychological capabilities to the limit.

“There were no radios in the appliances in the early days. So when you went out, no one knew where you were or what you were doing. You only reported back when you got back to the station,” he said.

“The Queen’s Hotel fire in the late 70s/early 80s was one of the biggest I was involved in. The flames were through the roof. That was the only time that have actually seen guests tying sheets together and lowered it down the windows.

“I have never seen that before or since. They actually didn’t use them, but they would have come down to the sea had they used them. Luckily, there were no fatalities.”

He added that one of the worst emergencies he ever attended wasn’t a fire but the death of two young Scandinavian fishermen who were overcome by the fumes of rotting pout, while on a fishing boat off Lerwick, also in the 1980s.

“You had people dying from smoke inhalation quite a lot over the years,” he said, “but this one was very unusual and it stuck in my mind for a long time.”

Reflecting on how you get going after experiences like this, he said: “You never really get used to it but, with all these type of jobs, there is a bit of black humour to help you deal with it.

“What keeps you going are the guys who are with you, because you are in it together.”

On a more positive note, the amount of serious fires has dropped significantly over recent years as more and more resources are being committed towards education and fire prevention.

And he adds that there are still far too many homes with incorrectly installed fire detectors or where people have removed the batteries from the detectors.

So, would he do it again? Of course he would – “most definitely”. He enjoyed the camaraderie and admits that time has flown by. “You only see it when you are here at the station, because there are so many young ones in the service now, some of them could almost be my grandchildren.”

He keeps his card close to his chest when it comes to revealing the plans for ‘Jim the pensioner’ but it looks as though he will be even busier than before. “I will not be sitting at home, put it that way,” he smiles.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is currently recruiting new fire fighters. Enquiries can be made via this website.