Heroic firefighting duo retire

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Fire service bosses have paid tribute to a dedicated firefighter and his fearless search and rescue dog who are retiring next week.

Committed firefighter Darren Booth, who has worked on Cleckheaton Fire Station’s Green Watch for more than 20 years, is hanging up his hose on Monday, November 2.

And his partner in firefighting, urban search and rescue springer spaniel Spencer, is also retiring after four years of helping his handler sniff out casualties across the country.

The Hightown Road station’s manager, Mark Hitchcock, said the duo had become “celebrities” at the service and would be greatly missed.

He said: “Over the years Darren and Spencer have become something of ambassadors and celebrities, deservedly so, attending many training and publicity events as well as multi and partner agency exercises. Darren’s unstinting enthusiasm, dedication and work ethic are commendable and both he and Spencer will be greatly missed.”

Mr Booth, 55, was first paired with Spencer when he was a nine-week old puppy in April, 2008.

He trained him in canine handling skills for two-and-a-half years with techniques including strategies and tactics, mapping, search and victim markings.

The duo passed their tests and were officially accredited with the Canine Assessment of Competence by the Chief Fire Officers Association National Resilience in 2011.

Spencer uses his sense of smell to detect human scents and can find people buried deep under rubble.

He also carries out his own searches independently, and can navigate slippery surfaces, confined spaces and tall structures.

The pair are now also licenced to carry out vulnerable missing person searches for the police.

Mr Booth joined the fire service as part of the 115th recruit course in 1986 and started work as a firefighter at Brighouse.

Mr Hitchcock added: “Darren has committed a huge amount of time and effort to the Canine Search Capability, both nationally and within the fire service. He has helped drive national policy and the training framework which will serve the capability well in the future.”