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The working life of Brian

Brian Newstead (left) is congratulated by London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson
Brian Newstead (left) is congratulated by London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson
Retirement of LFB firefighter after over 50 years of public service

In 1958 Britain's first motorway was opened, Elvis joined the army and Manchester United lost a generation of talented players in the Munich Air disaster. It was also the year that Brian Newstead joined the fire service and he is now retiring after over half a century of dedicated service to the public.

Brian, who lives in Wembley, became a firefighter after finishing his national service. Brian said: "My service was with the RAF and you had to complete a firefighting course. This was during the Cold War, when there was a real concern about nuclear bombs being used. Afterwards Middlesex Fire Brigade wrote to me about being a firefighter and the rest, as they say, is history."

He started his career at Willlesden and moved to Park Royal when the station opened. In 1965 the Middlesex Brigade was incorporated into the London Fire Brigade. He went on to work at Mill Hill, Wembley, Belsize and Northolt in an operational career that spanned 30 years.

A north west London man through and through, he became a temporary Station Officer in 1979 - the same year he was presented with his 20 year Long Service & Good Conduct medal. Brian joked: "I always said I'm still trying to make up my mind whether I like the job! But seriously, I have enjoyed my career - the contact with the public and the camaraderie with my colleagues. It was always nice to go to work."

He received another individual award in 1963 for his actions at a house fire on Nicoll Road in Harlesden. "A mother and baby were trapped on the first floor and I was part of the crew which carried them to safety. It was a Sunday lunch time and it's still vivid in my mind. I was commended by the Chief Fire Officer for my professionalism which was unusual in those days, as awards normally were only given to a watch." Brian also attended the Worsley Hotel fire which became the basis for a best selling book, ‘Red Watch', and the Kings Cross fire in 1987.

Always keen to help local charities, Brian and his colleagues at Belsize fire station raised thousands of pounds for the Special Baby Care Unit at the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead and for Eden Hall, the local Marie Curie cancer care unit. "We ran raffles, bed pushes through Hampstead streets, open days at the station and endlessly touted around all the local businesses so that we could help the good causes throughout the 70s and 80s. The friends I made at the Brigade are friends I still have and although we're all getting on a bit, we meet up every Christmas."

When Brian retired as an operational firefighter he joined the Met Police before re-joining the Brigade in 1991. Since then he has worked for the Brigade team that ensures firefighters get the right protective equipment, based in Croydon.

Brian said; "The job has changed so much since I joined. In 1958 we were still wearing uniform that had been around for 100 years - leather boots, black leggings and a black helmet. The equipment has changed and now there is a lot more focus on preventing fires which has made a huge difference in the amount of fires we have today compared to when I served."

Brian attended a reception held in his honour on 11 June. Commissioner Ron Dobson was also in attendance and when Brian was asked about all the chief officers he has worked under he said: "Yeah, there have been quite a few but don't ask me to name them all!"

London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Ron Dobson said: "Brian will be sorely missed by colleagues from across the Brigade. I would like to thank him on behalf of the Brigade and the people of London for his hard work over an amazing 50 year career. It's people like Brian who have helped to make London a safer city for all. I wish him all the very best for the future."

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