Wembley firefighter looks back as he retires after 30 years
- Credit: David Nathan
A Wembley firefighter has said he will miss the friendships and camaraderie as he retires having served 30 years for the brigade.
Neil Cash is "enjoying the sunshine" in the Isle of Man, having moved there following his departure as Station Officer of Wembley Fire Station on June 19.
The 55-year-old attended the Bishopgate bombing in 1993 and faced a huge timber blaze in Staples Corner, as well as rescuing residents trapped in bathrooms, over the course of his long career.
"More than anything else it's the friendships and camaraderie of my fellow firefighters, it's that shared environment, we all go through the same thing, that I will miss the most," he said.
"It's still a very special job and there's very much a sense of responsibility and a lot of pride that we are there when the public needs us the most. It's that feeling that everything we go out on to is that somebody needs help.
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"I've a lot of friends in the police force and they're in a totally different arena as often they will attend things where they aren't particularly wanted and aren't particularly welcome because of the nature of what their work entails.
"We go out because people need help and it can be really simple like the door handle has come off the bathroom and somebody got stuck right the way up to car crashes and house fires.
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"It can be very stressful, it can be extremely rewarding, it can be quite sad."
Station master Cash started his career after "a stint in the military" at the former Belsize Park Fire Station in 1991 before being promoted to work in Tottenham and other stations before returning to Belsize Park.
He spent 15 years in charge of the Green Watch in Euston and his last two years were at Wembley.
"One of the biggest things for the fire service is the huge change in the last couple of years that has to do with the rising number of cancer [cases] from contaminants given off in fires.
"When I first joined in 1991 fire fighters life expectancy was slowly increasing after retirement but then seemed to have plateaued and now started to drop again due to a large upsurge in cancer.
"There's big research going on at the moment for firefighters who attended Grenfell to check for contaminants in their blood system.
"I didn't go to Grenfell but they used me as a bench-line for standard exposure to contaminants."
He added: "It's been a long haul. That bit of me feels like I'm on a longish holiday. The fire service will always be with me. Interrupted nights is what I'll miss the least. Being up half the night and catching up on sleep without throwing your sleep out of kilter, that's difficult."
He is undecided what he'll do next, whether training new fire firefighters or moving into consultancy work.
"I'll wait and see what way the future pulls me," he said.