From being one of the first to respond to the Shoreham Airshow tragedy to rescuing an Alsatian stuck in a fence, Gavin Ross’ thirty year career with the fire service has involved both ‘traumatic’ and ‘uplifting’ incidents.
But the Worthing resident said he has ‘absolutely loved’ his job as a firefighter as he retires from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, aged 52.
He said he was first drawn to the role by the excitement it promised.
“It’s something out of the ordinary and not the nine to five, which appealed to me,” he said.
Three decades later, he said it had been ‘rewarding and fulfilling’ career.
“It’s super fun,” he said. “It can be boring at times, but then something happens and it can be three in the morning, you’re out doing something and watching the sun come up. It does vary and change.”
After a ‘challenging’ three months of training, Mr Ross spent the first 10 years of his career at Horley fire station and can still remember the ‘poisonous, toxic smoke’ he faced at his first fire at a research laboratory.
Over the years, he has been called to the scene of major events including the 1989 fire at Uppark and some more bizarre incidents, such as rescuing a grave digger who had become half buried in a grave in Littlehampton.
Crucial to the role is being a people person and Mr Ross has often had to tactfully deliver bad news, such as when a falling crane killed two people during construction work at Durrington High School in 2005.
But being a trusted figure at times of crisis brings huge rewards.
Recalling a collision in which a driver was left trapped in his van, Mr Ross said: “I was the first one at his window. He was ashen faced, but when I asked if he was OK – he said ‘I am now you’re here’.
“To have someone who knows what they are doing to take control, people are so thankful for that.”
In his retirement, Mr Ross said he would continue his links with the fire service as well as keeping active by playing beach volleyball and spending time with his children, aged 19 and 22.
But he will miss the team at Worthing, where he had been based for 20 years.
He said: “It’s a bit gut-wrenching. The watch are such a great bunch, it’s almost like a family.
“You spent two days and two nights kind of living together, we mess around and have a laugh.
“But then the bell drops and everyone gets serious.
“I’m going to miss them terribly.”