Old Norwich fire station to shut its doors for the final time…
With paintings, trophies and photos boxed up, and a final day’s clothing among bare coat hangers it looked like any other moving day.
But this was not the usual moving house or business premises, as the final items of clothing were helmets, boots, jackets and tunics, and the other articles represented years of fire service history.
Tomorrow marks the end of an era for the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service as the doors are closed on their Bethel Street station for the final time as the move to a new £4.5m station takes place.
At 9am tomorrow Green Watch will report to Bethel Street for the last time, with Blue Watch reporting to their new home at 6pm.
The central Bethel Street station has served the city since 1934, but as the nature of the service has changed the need for a new station was realised and the decision was taken to move to the new Carrow Fire Station, near Martineau Lane, in Trowse.
District manager Greg Preston said: “It was built when fire stations served the whole of the city, which is why there are so many bays and doors – all the fire engines for the city were here.”
He said that today the service has a much greater focus on the rescue side with cutting edge engines that carried a wide variety of equipment.
However he added that there were mixed emotions for everyone involved.
“I think it is coming to the end of a lot of eras and people are feeling sad it is actually closing, but as professional firefighters they understand we are leaving for a fire station far more relevant and practical.”
One of those giving the station an emotional send off yesterday was its longest serving member Sonny Garrett, 64.
Mr Garrett, a fire safety officer, first started at the station in November 1971, when it also housed the ambulance service.
He said: “I think the station itself has a unique character, it has always had that feeling.
“When you look back it was perfect at the time for running a fire station. It has served us well.
“I have worked with some excellent people over the years, who have been both friends and colleagues. It is this comradeship and friendship that you just can’t measure how important it is. In an emergency service you really rely on each other.”
Mr Garrett paid tribute to those who had been injured and killed while serving the city from the station and said that he had been documenting the station’s history in memory of all those who have worked there.
He said: “When I heard about the new site it seemed a shame so much history was going to be lost so I started collecting information and photos and hopefully in a few weeks time it will be on the Norfolk Fire Service website.”
The process of leaving Bethel Street has not just been a case of moving two fire engines from the four-storey building, which houses four crews of eight, as well as a range of support and management teams.
Phil Berry, fire station manager, said: “It has been a hectic couple of months preparing not only the operational but also the fire safety side.
“It has served us very well over the years, but there is awful lot of material that has been left behind that had to be prepared.”
He added: “We can’t forget a lot of people here and they served the community of Norwich very well. We have to have to remember some of colleagues who have lost their lives while doing that.”
Mr Berry added that any historical items they could not take with them would go to the historical society so they can be preserved.
However the famous firefighters’ poles have to stay as the station is a listed building.
The next stage will be the decommissioning the station before it is sold off by Norfolk County Council. However, it is unlikely that Mr Garrett’s dream of a museum on the site will be realised as it will be sold with planning permission for 14 residential flats and offices on the ground floor.
Mr Garrett said: “I would like to keep it as a fire station. It would be nice if they turned it into a museum with old fire appliances and could raise some money for charities and other organisations. It seems an ideal place for it.”