A BLACK Country firefighter has celebrated an incredible 40 years of service, stationed across the West Midlands, but he has no plans to hang up his uniform just yet.

Mark Crew, watch commander at Brierley Hill Community Fire Station, started his career at aged 18 and has loved every minute of it, he said.

He started out with a posting to Tipton Fire Station after completing a 13-week training course at Coventry.

After advancing to a fully qualified firefighter and after five years on white watch at Tipton, he went on to work at fire stations across the Black Country including Oldbury where he was promoted to the role of leading firefighter, and he later became a sub officer at Smethwick and a recruit training officer.

He went on to become a station officer at Walsall and then Smethwick and briefly at Dudley. He also spent six years as the arson prevention manager for Dudley borough - working with partner agencies to secure derelict buildings at risk of vandalism - and also working to help those sleeping rough and involved in anti social behaviour that frequented the buildings.

For the last five years he has served as watch commander for purple watch at Brierley Hill where his boss Justin Bayliss, station commander for Brierley Hill and Stourbridge Fire Stations, said: "40 years is a fantastic achievement.

"Mark has led an exemplary career serving the most vulnerable people within the communities of the West Midlands, I would like to pass on my personal thank you and that of the fire service for all Mark has given over his 40-year career."

Mark said he's enjoyed "every second of it" and he told the News: "It's without doubt the best the most fabulous job anybody could wish for. I'd recommend anybody leaving school to consider it as a career. It's not only a career, you join a family - you work together, eat together and look after each other every single day. It's been an absolute pleasure to come to work every day for 40 years."

Looking back on his career, he said his proudest moment was receiving a resuscitation award from the Royal Humane Society after rescuing a woman from a flat fire.

He said: "I, and my colleagues, performed CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation on her on the front grass of her flat.

"She came out of the fire not breathing and with no vital signs and went into the ambulance alive and breathing. I'm particularly proud of that, especially as it was in the first few years of my career."

Firefighters, however, are called to many varied jobs, not just fires, to provide technical rescue support. One of the most bizarre of these was a call out just a few weeks ago to a girl stuck in a washing machine in Brockmoor.

Mark said: "This young girl had climbed into the drum of a washing machine, encouraged by her friends, to make a Tik Tok video. She got in quite easily but could not get out. With the help of our tech rescue team, the washing machine had to be completely dismantled before we could get the young girl out."

It's not only members of the public, however, who sometimes do things they wish they could live down.

Recalling his "daftest incident" on duty - Mark said: "Although I remember the fire, I don’t remember the actual conversation. Anyway, the breathing apparatus crew shouted that it was a small fire and could someone send up something to hold water – a bowl or similar. Apparently, I came out of the kitchen with a colander. It took me many years to get over that one."

With no upper age limit to serve in the fire service - apart from a requirement to pass an annual physical, Mark, aged 58, who has a wife and daughter, has no plans to call time on his career just yet - and he's hoping to gather many more tales to tell. In fact, he said: "I'd like to be the first firefighter to do 50 years."