A KILWINNING firefighter has retired after dedicating almost three decades of his life to keeping the residents of the west of Scotland safe.

Kenny Hankinson, 55, first joined the fire service back in 1993 after quitting his previous job to pursue his dream role.

He told the Herald: “It had always been an idea to join the fire service. I was in a mundane job at the time and wanted a bit of variety and a challenge.”

After 17 weeks of intense training, Kenny was posted into the heart of Glasgow.

He worked in Polmadie and would later serve in various other locations across the city including Govan, Yorkhill, and Springburn after gaining two quick promotions firstly as leading firefighter and later sub-officer.

He said: “I remember my first day at Polmadie vividly. We were called out to 14 incidents in the one day. My wife said I came home from my first shift and I could not stop talking about it.”

Kenny then transferred to his home region of Ayrshire in 2000 until 2007 before serving as a watch commander at Pollok and then being promoted to Johnstone as station commander.

In 2015, he was appointed group commander head of prevention and protection for all three Ayrshire local authorities, based in Ardrossan.

He said: “My role in Ardrossan was a community safety role. It was all about prevention and protection and all things community planning, public safety, home fire safety visits and increasing links with the third sector.

“We are far more engaged with the community now and with the Positive Steps programme with the Ayrshire Community Trust we helped to get people back into employment.

“A very enjoyable part of my career was when I was seconded on to the Commonwealth Games team as part of a multi-agency unit in 2013. I was involved in organising multi-agency training events that prepared the emergency services for the games in Glasgow.

Asked what incident stands out the most during his 28-year career he said: “The most severe fire I was at was the second Glasgow School of Art fire.”

He continued: “Another traumatic incident I remember was the West Street bus crash in 1994. That was a real eye opener and my first fatalities.

“In 2000 my wife was pregnant, and I was taking my older boy to a trip and he went on a double decker bus and went upstairs and was waving to me from the window and it all flashed back. I had a panic attack and jumped on the bus and asked him to come downstairs.

“I hadn’t thought about it for years and it was something that was buried in my mind and it came to the fore again.”

When asked what he will miss the most Kenny said: “I will certainly miss the job. Teamwork is massive and you always support each other. I will miss the camaraderie and have missed it during the pandemic, the stories and banter you share with your colleagues.

“After an incident you would go back to the station and you could help each other out and deal with any traumatic events. I have worked with some great people over the years. I could write a book of the stories I have heard and have witnessed.

“I will miss working with the community and my daily routine but I achieved everything I wanted to in the fire service and have had a wealth of different experiences. It’s been an invigorating career.”

Kenny is now planning to enjoy his retirement with his wife Lorna who has been with him every step of the way and they will welcome a grandchild this summer.

His son Andrew, 27, works for the fire service as a graphic designer while his younger son Calum, 20, is considering a career as a firefighter.

Kenny says he would urge anyone to pursue a career in the service.

“From my experience I would totally advocate joining the service. There are vast opportunities and I volunteered for everything. I would encourage people to go and challenge themselves. It’s also a great way to help the public.”

Local senior officer for Ayrshire, Ian McMeekin, paid tribute to Kenny and told the Herald: “Kenny will be a huge loss. He has given 28 years of public service to communities across the west of Scotland.

“He will be greatly missed and has been a great leader and always had a focus on protecting the public across Ayrshire.”

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