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Purley firefighter leaves after 30 years to run holiday homes in France

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HE HAS battled blazes in bomb-riddled buildings and rescued ducks down drains – but now Neil Finch is hanging up his helmet after 30 years.

The firefighter worked his last shift at Purley Fire Station on Tuesday to start a new life running holiday homes in France

The father of three said: "I used to work for a computer company in Croydon.

"I know it sounds corny but I wanted to do a little bit for society - I did not want to be stuck in an office with computers.

"I have enjoyed the career and the people.

"It is thanks to the men I work with for making it what it is."

Watch manager Mr Finch, 52, has been stationed at Purley for the past five years, after stints in Wallington, Clapham and elsewhere.

The grandfather of five was part of the team that battled the blaze which gutted Coulsdon's derelict Cane Hill mental hospital in 2009.

He said: "It was made more difficult by the fact that we could not enter the building for structural reasons.

"The SAS had been using it for bomb practice, so it was very unstable."

He has also been called to plenty of less dramatic emergencies, from animal rescues to kitchen fires.

"We have ducks down drains, birds stuck in trees by honeysuckle round their legs," he said. "We do get these different things."

Mr Finch and his wife have already sold their home in Sutton ahead of their big move to Normandy. He said he planned to improve his French language skills, adding he was "looking forward to not working nights and weekends".

It is a life, he agrees, which will be a long way from the responsibility of saving lives.

He said: "It gets a bit exciting sometimes; you need to know what to do immediately.

"It can be testing at times but if we ask for more help it arrives.

"The beauty of the fireman is if they need to do something they are going to make it work.

"But now I am old and grey and worn out."

Purley firefighter leaves after 30 years to run holiday homes in France


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