A HAMPSHIRE man has been awarded a permanent contract with Hampshire Fire and Rescue after 33 years of service.

Andy Paddington, from Chandler's Ford, will now be working at St Mary's Fire station after being based at Eastleigh Fire Station as an on-call firefighter.

According to Hampshire Fire and Rescue, an on-call fire fighter is someone who responds to a range of fire and rescue service jobs, including emergency calls, working at open days and acting as an ambassador for the fire service.

The 58-year-old said: "It took 33 years to become wholetime fire fighter because I ran my own business called Boyatt Van Hire in Eastleigh for 30 years. This opportunity with the fire service came up at the right time so I applied for it and now I will probably wind down the business, as I cannot run two jobs."

"I found out yesterday that I had been recruited and I was over the moon. I don't know how my wife has put up with it for all these years.

"You have to live in the area and need to be able to get to the station in four minutes when you are called. We normally have to do two 15 hour night shifts, 15 of us will be on duty at the time and we run two fire engines.

He added: "I like helping the community and it is such a good job because you get to meet so many different people from different backgrounds. A lot of it is about fire safety and I have been heavily involved with educating school children, which is really rewarding. I think for the time I have served you can tell."

Andy said: "It can take up to five years to train as a fully-trained fire fighter as we go over a lot of risks and medical emergency care. I feel a lot more confident now because we are given much more training now than we used to have.

"We do fitness assessments every six months which we have to pass and this involves carrying a lot of heavy equipment."

Andy's son, Neal Paddington, also works as a wholetime fire fighter at Eastleigh Fire Station and said his father must be "Hampshire's oldest new recruit".