COLLEAGUES have said a fond farewell to a fire watch manager who has retired after 30 years' service.

Tim Eaton, Whitefield's green watch manager, has stepped down from the role to enjoy time with his family and to "see what the future has in store."

Friends, family, and colleagues past and present turned out to the station for a retirement party after he served his last shift on December 9.

Mr Eaton, aged 52 and who lives in Stoneclough, said: "It is a bit surreal to be leaving after all this time. It has gone so quickly.

"I started out in the building trade but thought I would give firefighting a go. I never looked back. I have absolutely loved it. I would do it all over again.

"The service is totally different to what it was 30 years ago; today there is far more work around prevention, such as fitting smoke alarms. When I joined it was a case of squirting water on fires."

Mr Eaton joined Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service when he was aged 22.

He has spent more than 27-and-a-half years on fire engines and two-and-a-half years in an office-based specialist post, organising staffing.

During his career, Mr Eaton has attended hundreds of incidents, and said he has experienced "some good highs and one or two lows".

One major call-out included the 1996 IRA bombing, which targeted Manchester's infrastructure and economy, and caused devastating damage.

In 2008, he also headed up the crew who responded to major flooding that threatened homes in Rigby Avenue, Radcliffe, in 2008, spending several hours pumping away floodwater to protect families.

And most recently, he was part of the emergency services team who worked to save two men involved in a car crash in Bury Old Road, Whitefield. The two men both died after the vehicle collided with a street sign at 1.30am on October 6.

Mr Eaton was based at Whitefield Fire Station between 2005 and 2009, returning in 2012 until present. Other postings include Manchester Central, Salford, and Blackley.

Whitefield crew manager Paul Doggett said: "We are very sorry to see Tim go. He is incredibly well liked and it has been a pleasure to work under his command.

"Tim is a really really good leader, for senior firefighters as well as apprentices who look up to him.

"Both operationally and on station, he has been a great teacher and is very easy to work for. You cannot ask for better."

Father-of-three Mr Eaton said: "I have got Christmas coming up and I have three children, including a nine-year-old, who will keep me on my toes, and then who knows what the New Year will bring. My wife has a long list of jobs for me to do."