FOR a quarter of a century Martin Denton has been prepared to drop everything to fight fires around Oxfordshire.

Now the father-of-two from Didcot is stepping down as a retained, or part-time, firefighter and is encouraging others to sign up for the brigade.

Mr Denton, who lives with wife Paula, 45, daughter Jasmin and son Callum, 12, is young enough to carry on — he’s 47.

But after completing 25 years’ service he feels it is time to go.

Mr Denton, who works at geoscience firm Fugro in Wallingford, started as a firefighter at the town’s fire station 12 years ago after being based at Abingdon and Didcot.

But since suffering a trapped nerve in his back, he has decided to retire.

The health and safety manager said: “The Government is trying to get us to keep going until we are 60 but I think 55 is pushing it.

“I have now completed my last shift at Wallingford and I don’t think there will be many retained firefighters who get to equal my record because it can be quite a commitment.

“In my prime I was covering 70 hours a week as well as doing my other job.

“There have been times when my family has been inconvenienced. Over the years I have missed a few Christmas dinners, but I would urge others to become firefighters because I have found the work very rewarding.”

Mr Denton said memorable incidents included call-outs to battery factory blazes in Abingdon, including one at Ultralife Batteries on Abingdon Business Park in 2004. He said: “Over the years I have been involved in quite a few rescues and I know there are people walking around who could have lost their lives without our help. We have saved people from death as well as serious injury.

“The number of fires we tackle has significantly decreased and that’s a result of good fire prevention advice.”

He added: “I have also had to attend a lot of road traffic accidents.”

Terry Coupar, retained station support officer at Wallingford, said: “Martin has been a terrific servant to the fire service and we will be sad to lose his experience. Reaching 25 years’ service is a massive achievement and hopefully this will inspire others to join as retained firefighters.”

Deputy chief fire officer Nathan Travis also thanked Mr Denton for his 25 years of service.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said there are currently 246 firefighters working full-time and 340 working part-time.

In December last year, on-call firefighters Charlie Williams, Dave Hemming and Steve Edginton clocked up a total of 100 years’ service.

They are thought to have responded to 13,000 calls from Burford fire station since joining the fire service.

People considering a career in the Fire Service should call the recruitment hotline on 0800 587 0870.