TRIBUTES have been paid to a heroic firefighter who has died aged 68 after catching Covid-19.

Ray Bailey spent most of his career helping to save lives and property in Ramsbottom, becoming a respected and popular figure among his colleagues and local residents.

During 25 years’ service with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Ray was stationed at Rochdale and then Bury fire stations for short spells, before moving to Ramsbottom Fire Station.

“Dad was the most warm, generous and funny man,” said Ray’s daughter Victoria, who thanked Fairfield Hospital and Salford Royal ICU. “He always had a joke or a story to tell and his generosity with his time has helped many a person.

“He was a true renaissance man, a man’s man, a fearless hero, clockmaker, dog lover, singer, master craftsman, plumber, entertainer, cyclist, builder, fisher, entrepreneur, free thinker, inventor, comedian, disruptor, hard as nails, but deeply principled, sensitive and a thoughtful husband, father and friend to so many.”

Ray, who leaves his wife Angela, also became well known as the singer with his band, The Ray Bailey Soul Train.

The couple travelled the world following his retirement in 2007 aged 55.

In 1999, Ray experienced the heartache of losing his colleague, part-time firefighter Paul Metcalf, who lost his life trying to rescue a boy from Holcombe Brook.

Lifelong friend and police officer, Chris Kitson, described Ray as a “hero”.

“He was leading fire officer for years at Ramsbottom Fire Station and was a very well-known local personality,” said Chris. “I cannot stress how well know he was through his firefighting, plumbing and singing.

“Ray was a genuine hero and legend and his death acts as a stark reminder of how this disease can effect even the most robust and larger-than-life characters."