Proud fire service volunteer reaches 2,000 hours of helping the local community

A retired engineer who was seriously injured 30-years ago during a workplace accident has proudly racked up 2,000 hours volunteering for the fire and rescue service.

John Pate, 76, has lived in Dunston for 45 years, and over the weekend he broke the magical 2,000 hours milestone for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

The great-grandad hit the mark during an RNLI Tynemouth event where he was representing the Fire Service by providing essential fire safety advice.

John proudly holds the title of TWFRS’s longest serving volunteer and one of the most dedicated community heroes in the North East.

He was born and bred in Walker and enjoyed working as an engineer before a serious accident back in the mid-nineties meant that he could no longer pursue that beloved career.

His long-standing association with the fire service really started from that time forward as firefighters came to his rescue to help free his trapped hand from the heavy duty machinery.

“I will always owe the Fire Service a great deal of gratitude for what they did for me and my family all of those years ago. The skill, expertise and empathy showed by the firefighters on the day of my accident will always be held dear to my heart.  And I’ve always seen my volunteer work as me trying to repay some of that gratefulness,” said John.

John has been married to wife Shirley for over 56-years. They have three children, son Anthony and daughters, Joanne and Linsey.  They have also been blessed with nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

After John’s injury he was in-and-out of hospital for a two-year period and during his recovery he experienced extensive physiotherapy.  He was told that he would never be able to return to a manual job, and that he might have to rethink his future.

This spurred John forward to pursue a different career.  He was given support by Northumbria University who put him on the right training path to become a teacher. He later became an IT teacher in two schools in Wide Open and Gateshead.

After retiring back in 2016, John wanted to do something worthwhile with his time, which is when he decided to contact the Fire Service to see if they had any volunteer work he could engage with.

This is when his seven year volunteering journey with the Service first began. To get the ball rolling he took part in three-months of training at our education resource centre in Newcastle entitled SafetyWorks.

Since that time, John has been an ever present in our prevention and education team, and regularly attends residential and community events across Tyne & Wear on behalf of the Service.

John even underwent the driving school assessment to enable him to drive some of the Service vehicles.  He does anything from fire safety leaflet drops to households and businesses to delivering Safe and Well visits to residents – who might require safety advice and the fitting of new smoke alarms in their property.

He’s a regular friendly face at events such as Chinese New Year and Northern Pride, where he helps to spread the good word about the Fire Service to members of the public.  He also played an important role as a volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic by handing out lateral flow test kits.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“We are so proud and appreciative of the amazing work that our volunteers do across Tyne and Wear.  It’s people like John who enable us to work so closely with residents and charitable groups in helping to keep the community safe by providing essential fire safety advice and other practical activities.

“It’s an honour to have John as part of the Service, and having two-thousand volunteer hours under his belt is no mean feat. What a wonderful achievement. Thank you from everyone at TWFRS and across the local community.”

John continues by talking about what being a volunteer means to him. He said: “It’s amazing to volunteer for the Fire Service but the big thing for me is that I wouldn’t be able to achieve half the things I’ve done without the wonderful staff I’ve worked with.

“They have all taken an interest in me as a person, and don’t hesitate to put me on the right track whenever necessary.

“Even though I’m a volunteer they always make me feel part of the team.  For me the more I learn, the more I want to learn.”

John says that he strives to reach the next milestone of achieving three-thousand volunteer hours.

He adds: “I aspire to make sure the people in the local community are safe and happy, and that they appreciate the work that we’ve all done.

“I can go to bed pleased each night with the knowledge that even one person or family is safer protected with new smoke alarms or advice that we’ve given them.”

John has given some personal advice to anyone who might want to become a volunteer with the Fire Service. He said: “It’s a commitment. If you are committed then there are dedicated staff who are there to take you as far as you want to go on your volunteering journey.

“It’s a role for individuals who show willing, ask questions, and who aren’t scared to get stuck in and do a job.”

If you would like to follow in John’s footsteps and enquire about joining the Fire Service as a volunteer then please visit