AFTER 45 years in the fire service, Bradford man Ronnie Goldwater certainly has plenty of tales to tell.

So much so the station manager is writing a book about his experiences as he edges closer to retirement from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service after a truly remarkable career.

"It's the best job in the world," Ronnie, 64, told the Telegraph & Argus at the city's Leeds Road fire station.

"I've seen a lot over the decades - I've helped with a number of major incidents, including the Bradford tyre fire, the Allied Colloids fire, the Hebden Bridge floods, the aftermath of the Bradford City fire and, more recently, the incident at Leeds Bradford Airport, where the plane veered off the runway. You don't get many incidents like that. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ronnie is currently writing his memoirsRonnie is currently writing his memoirs (Image: Mike Simmonds/Newsquest)

"I've helped to rescue countless people and save lives, and I can't describe how euphoric you feel, how amazing you feel, when you do that.

"It's such a privilege and an honour to be able to help people. 

"I've also helped to rescue all kinds of animals, including stricken horses, cows and deer, cats stuck up trees, an owl found dangling from an overhead telephone wire, and a huge boa constrictor called Sid who got stuck in some bed springs

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ronnie with Sid the snake, a boa constrictorRonnie with Sid the snake, a boa constrictor (Image: Archive)

"That snake! It still haunts me to this day.

"They call me Dolittle here because of all the animal rescues," Ronnie said with a smile. 

Ronnie's mother and the Telegraph & Argus had important parts to play in his career story.

After leaving Buttershaw comprehensive school aged 18, Ronnie had what he called some "messing around" jobs - and then he saw a small advert in the T&A searching for firefighters in West Yorkshire.

"I applied - mainly to get my mum off my back as she kept asking when I was going to get a 'proper job'," recalled Ronnie.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

After passing his assessments and landing the job, Ronnie was sent to Illingworth for his training on October 2, 1978, then applied for a transfer to Odsal, where he remained for 12 years.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ronnie, right, in years gone byRonnie, right, in years gone by (Image: Submitted)

He then decided to climb the career ladder and took a post as leading fireman at Elland and then at Huddersfield.

From there he was promoted to a position at Stanks before being made rider station officer at Dewsbury and then at Nelson Street fire station in Bradford.

He later found himself as station commander working out of Bradford, with responsibility for Shipley and Bingley, before eventually becoming station manager for the Leeds area. 

"I've seen a lot of positive changes over the years," said Ronnie.

"When I joined, we had plastic clothing and cork helmets - now, the firefighter has never been safer with their top-quality gear and equipment.

"There have been a lot of technological advancements as well - and I think we've become more proactive in the community.

"Alongside partners, there's a lot more work to help prevent fires and protect people - fitting smoke alarms, carrying out Safe and Well visits, things like that."

Sports fan Ronnie - who has enjoyed playing in the fire service's football and cricket teams over the years - paid tribute to his colleagues, saying they "deserve a huge pat on the back for the amazing work they do in helping to keep our communities safe".

"They are all highly skilled people and champions in the community," he added.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ronnie with one of his commendations from over the years Ronnie with one of his commendations from over the years (Image: Submitted)


He also had some words of wisdom for people new to the fire service.

"Have a great attitude, get stuck in and enjoy yourself," he said. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Enjoy your retirement when it comes, Ronnie!Enjoy your retirement when it comes, Ronnie! (Image: Mike Simmonds/Newsquest)

Ronnie, who said he expects to retire when he turns 66 in 2025, is currently writing his memoirs, which have the working title A Career and a Half.

When asked what he thinks the fire service will look like in another 45 years, Ronnie said: "One thing is for certain, there will always be a need for firefighters who provide that human touch, that empathy - that will never change."

Summing up the last 45 years, Ronnie said: "It's been wonderful, remarkable.

"When I do retire and see a fire engine, I know I'll always wish I could be on it. 

"If I had the chance, I'd do it all again."