Technical rescue expert retires from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service after 32 years’ service and 61 international rescue missions

The man behind the launch of West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s technical rescue unit is retiring after 32 years’ service and 61 international rescue missions.

St John Stanley, known as Singe, joined the fire service as a retained firefighter at Partridge Green in 1989 and retires this week as station manager for Henfield, Partridge Green and Shoreham.

Singe was instrumental in establishing the technical rescue unit, the only one of its kind the UK to be fully trained to carry out all five of the specialist elements - urban search and rescue, rope rescue, water rescue, animal rescue and going oversees for international search and rescue.

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Singe said: “I’ll never forget being deployed to the devastating earthquake in Turkey ten years into my career, back in 1999. This was my first trip overseas to give aid and made me realise how important it was to bring these skills back into the service, in order to help the residents we serve and be better prepared to assist in many of the weird and wonderful incidents we attend.

Singe Stanley on operation with West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service's technical rescue unit

“Therefore, I began putting in the groundwork to create the TRU and had great support from the service in doing so. As we all know, in 2001 the 9/11 attacks took place, and this changed everything – making the need for a specialist rescue team even more important.

“The TRU became fully established in 2003 and in those 18 years that have followed, the team have attended a great deal of incidents, from animal rescues, aircraft incidents and boat fires, and it has been an absolute privilege watching the team evolve.

“I am so proud of the work that we’ve done, particularly the overseas rescue trips. Personally, I have travelled abroad 61 times with the service – either to respond to incidents or give training. Coming from an agricultural background, I pinch myself every time I step foot on a plane for work.

“I’d like to say a special thanks to everyone who gave me an opportunity and to those who shared my vision. Two decades ago, the idea of starting a rescue team within the county seemed a bit far-fetched but being able to take a step back and reflect on all the amazing work the team has done, locally, nationally and overseas, is one of my proudest achievements.

St John Stanley, known as Singe, retires this week as station manager for Henfield, Partridge Green and Shoreham

“People often talk about what legacy they’d like to leave behind. I’m not sure I believe that I’d leave any sort of legacy behind but I really hope I have helped people to be open and enthusiastic to change and help make a difference.”

Singe served as a wholetime firefighter at Crawley, Horsham and Horley fire stations before joining the technical rescue unit, responding to a range of incidents, including confined space, height, water and animal rescues, structural collapses and open area searches.

He then became station manager at Partridge Green in 2007.

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, chief fire officer, said: “The dedication Singe has shown to West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service over the past 32 years is nothing short of incredible, and his contribution to the service and the people of West Sussex through the establishment of our TRU cannot be underestimated.

“I know that we will all miss Singe as he embarks on the next chapter of his life, but we would like to wish him all the very best for a happy and long retirement, wherever in the world that may take him.”