Late Clare firefighter David Hickford given a guard of honour at his funeral as colleagues paid tribute to him
Firefighters formed a guard of honour outside the parish church in Clare as the fire service and community said their farewells to a man who served as an on-call firefighter for three decades.
St Peter and St Paul's Church was packed on Friday for the funeral of town resident David Hickford, who died suddenly on July 24 of a suspected heart attack, aged 59.
Mr Hickford, who has one son and one daughter, retired from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service three years ago after 30 years as a part-time firefighter - almost all of it spent at Clare Fire Station - but such was the esteem he was held in that 21 firefighters formed a guard of honour outside the church as the pallbearers took his coffin out after the service.
The guard of honour comprised of nine firefighters at Clare, but also firefighters at Long Melford, Wickhambrook and senior officers from across Suffolk.
The funeral cortege from his home to the church was also led by a fire appliance from Clare station.
Mark Hill, the watch commander at Clare Fire Station organised the guard of honour after first putting the idea to the family of Mr Hickford, with whom he served for well over a decade.
Mr Hill said: "David served at Clare Fire Station for 30 years, which is an astonishing achievement.
"The Chief Fire Officer of Suffolk (Mark Hardingham) came to give him his long service medal because it's a big thing, not many firefighters do that length of time."
Mr Hickford followed in the footsteps of his late father Jim, who was also an on-call officer in Clare for many years, explained Mr Hill.
Speaking before the funeral, which Mr Hill said was 'the biggest seen in Clare for some time' Mr Hardingham said: “David Hickford was an outstanding firefighter who served his local community with professionalism and distinction for many years.
"He will be greatly missed by the many Suffolk firefighters who worked with him, and especially those at Clare fire station where he served.
"Our thoughts are with David’s family and, at their request, Suffolk firefighters will be paying their respects at the funeral.”
The funeral wake at Clare Social Club was even interrupted by a brief call out for Clare firefighters, which Mr Hill said was very fitting.
"Had he (Mr Hickford) been there looking down he would have said 'that was absolutely brilliant that we had a fire call on the day'."