Meet Old Kent Road firefighter Ritchie Brockies
Firefighter Ritchie Brockies has been presented with a long service medal by the London Fire Brigade commissioner Ron Dobson.
Ritchie, a crew manager at Old Kent Road fire station, was in the Army before joining the fire service in 1990.
He was presented with his 20 year medal at a special ceremony held at Southwark Training Centre on 20 May.
"When I was a child I remember my grandparents having a fire in their home, which was caused by a gas fire exploding," says Ritchie.
"I was impressed by the firefighters who came round and decided then it was the career for me".
Ritchie remembers one of the first large incidents he attended was a fire in a timber yard in Kingston: "It was exciting, my adrenaline was going and my heart was racing. I stuck close to my partner and had to search in a pitch black, smoky environment to check there was no one inside."
Ritchie recalls being amongst the first firefighters to arrive at the scene of the Southall train crash in 1997 where six people lost their lives and more than 150 were injured.
He said: "It was horrendous. I was responsible for checking the wreckage for survivors and rescuing people who were trapped. It's something that will stay with me forever."
Not all of the incidents he's attended over the past twenty years have involved people, as Ritchie explains: "We were called to rescue a horse that was stuck upside down in a trench on a building site. I've got no idea how it ended up like that but it took us three hours to get it out. A vet was called and miraculously the horse was uninjured."
When asked what he enjoys about his job, Ritchie said: "I like working in Southwark, there's always lots going on and we're kept busy with a wide range of incidents."
Of his career so far he said: "I've enjoyed it immensely – I can't believe it, where's that twenty years gone?! I get a real buzz out of helping people. I feel like I can really make a difference and what we do really means a lot to people when they're in distress. I also love the team work aspect of being a firefighter – it's a real bonding experience."