GREATER Manchester's longest serving firefighter bowed out of the profession this week saying farewell to Chadderton Fire Station where he's spent 37 years with his beloved red watch.

Not only is Tony Field Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's longest serving active firefighter, clocking up an incredible 38-and-a-half years, he's also among a very rare breed to have been doing the job at 60.

The majority of firefighters up and down the country usually retire after 30 years’ service or around the age off 55, making this an unusual and amazing feat.

Much loved and respected Tony was given a final send off at the Broadway station on Monday.

Dozens off current and former colleagues from stations across Oldham, Tameside and Rochdale, his wife Suzanne and daughter Danielle watched as he was presented with a chrome ceremonial axe and a long service certificate by Oldham councillor and Greater Manchester fire Authority member, Steve Williams.

Tony began his career at the age of 22, learning the ropes and ladders at Manchester's iconic London Road Fire Station where he lived for three months.

After being posted to Bury Fire Station, he was moved to join red watch at Chadderton where he spent the rest of his career.

Not long after becoming a firefighter Tony was on duty when fire broke out at Bolton Town Hall in 1981, a blaze which threatened to destroy the town's architectural jewel in the crown.

He was among 30 crews from across Greater Manchester who battled for hours to help save the Albert Hall building.

Just months earlier Tony was on the scene fighting the flames caused by a huge explosion which killed a truck driver at solvent recovery factory Chemstar Limited, in Stalybridge.

It took 37 fire engines to control the fire.

Tony was also on duty when Rex Mill at Middleton Junction was destroyed by fire and he nearly lost a colleague in the blaze.

He was among 30 pumps called out to the incident in the 90s when the building - the former home of the Gallahers Senior Service cigarettes - burned to the ground, illuminating the Oldham skyline.

Oldham's cotton mill history has played a big part in Tony's career.

He says he's been called to Maple Mill, in Cardwell Street - the former headquarters of kitchen boss Vance Miller - on numerous occasions including the huge blaze which ripped through it in 2016.

"When I first started as a firefighter the cottons mills in Oldham were still operational and I don't think there were many shifts that went by when we didn't have to go out to one," said Tony.

"A bit of a spark would get into the ducting and start a fire and we were more or less there every week.

"I was quite new to the job and I was in a mill with one of the more experienced lads pulling a hose along and suddenly there was a lot of sparks and we couldn't see where we were going. This hole in the floor suddenly appeared we were nearly through it. I've have a few life-threatening moments.

"You never seemed to be scared at the time as the training just kicks in. It's afterwards when you start thinking about it and you realise how close it was.

"There's always great camaraderie amongst the lads. We do go out on some horrible things and see some horrible things but we all support each other and are there for each other.

"When we go out on an incident and we resolve it successfully it makes it all worthwhile. I feel we do a worthwhile job helping and protecting the public and helping save lives and I'm very proud to have been a fireman for so long.

"I've loved every minute of it."

Tony and the Chadderton station lads are also renowned for their fundraising and have generated thousands for worthy causes such as Kingfisher Special School and he says he hopes to still be involved in.

Red watch manager Peter Marshall, who presented Tony with a framed signed Manchester United shirt, said: "Tony is one of those characters that has seen just about everything there is to see as a firefighter and so he should after 38 years.

"He has a great outlook on life and even though he is now 60 is still very much young at heart.

"He has got an abundance of funny stories relating to jobs in the service and used to keep us all amused. He has a big heart and would help anybody. It has been a pleasure serving with him.

"As a watch we do various mud runs, 10K runs and other events throughout the year for charity and Tony is always up for the challenge.

"To sum up, one of life's nice guys and we wish him all the best for the future."

Tony, who lives in Bury and also has step daughter, Leah Marsh, says he'll carry on maintaining his impressive fitness by going to the gym and will be working for a friend who owns Winstanley Furniture Removals, in Castleton, Rochdale.