A firefighter took up the job because his mum thought it would be safer than his previous occupation.

Joe Martin, who lives in Thames Ditton, has served at Surbiton for 20 years, having been stationed in Kingston and Richmond before that.

He said: “I was dispatch riding and she was looking for something safer for me to do.”

But even after the career change, he was not exactly out of harm’s way.

Mr Martin, 50, said: “The kit was fantastically different. My uniform was a donkey jacket, plastic leggings – which did melt – and rubber gloves – which did melt – and a cork helmet.

“It was exactly the same kit as the Victorians were using.”

So what made him want to keep going?

He said: “It’s just habit forming.

“Every time you go out on a shout, everybody is happy to see you.

“It’s a great job to do if you like helping people.

“You are basically a carer [though] some of the caring you do is at a fairly sharp end of things.

“We do much more education now than we did – I like the sound of my own voice so I quite enjoy it.”

There are other perks to the job, too. Mr Martin said he has been let off by stand-up comedians after showing up late to gigs after they learned what he did for a living.

Mr Martin served his last day as a firefighter on Monday, doling out his old kit to colleagues.

He said he plans to move into property developing in his retirement.

He was handed a plaque mounted with a fireman’s axe to commemorate his 30 years in the brigade.

Colleague Dan Cooper, who has known Mr Martin since he joined Surbiton 12 years ago, said: “He’s a very good fireman. You get told all sorts of things at training school about how things are and what’s done to recruits.

“He basically took me under his wing, he was my mentor.

“He always explained how things were done and why things were done.”

Do you know an unsung hero? Call the newsdesk on 020 8744 4273 or email jon.sharman@london.newsquest.co.uk.