A 'hero' Largs fire officer has been praised by Scottish Fire and Rescue chiefs for his remarkable 40 year career.

Norman Burt was one of the first on the scene after the 1995 train crash, and also attended the Kelburn Primary blaze and many other emergency incidents over the years.

The humble 62 year old retained firefighter told the 'News' that 'it was nice to receive the recognition' at a special surprise event held at Largs Fire Station last Monday evening.

Asked what the secret of his longevity was, the veteran firefighter believes fitness and enjoying the job were key factors.

Courage is also an important factor and Norman has been a member of fire crews who have took part in countless rescues from house fires over the years.

Indeed, Norman worked in the former fire station which was a converted laundrette at the former Marine and Curlinghall Hotel garage premises, before moving to the current premises in Brisbane Road in the 1980s.

The quietly spoken fireman has juggled his firefighting commitments with his day job as a joiner.

He remembers starting out in Largs Fire Brigade as a fresh faced 22 year old, working under sub officer Tommy Stevens, and then Peter Bowyer.

Recalling the early morning railway crash in Largs, Norman said: "One of the firefighters happened to be passing Main Street just minutes after the train crash happened and raised the alarm.

"I remember the call came through that a train was out on the road. We knew we were on to something big.

"There was some mess as the train demolished part of the station and went through two shops before coming to a halt in the Main Street.

"It was a sheer miracle that nobody was killed as another half an hour later the place would have been a lot busier. It was scary.

"It changed Largs Railway Station completely - it used to all be under cover and nice - they couldn't afford to put it back to the way it was."

Another big blaze that Norman attended was the Kelburn Primary inferno in 1990 which resulted in the school - which was formerly the Largs Higher Grade school - having to come down.

Norman, who was born and bred in Largs, was a former pupil at the school, and said: "I remember I used to go to school there, so it was a surreal thing having to put out the flames.

"I remember when the secondary school in Largs was built and we moved from there to the new school in Flatt Road and at that point the whole of the secondary only fitted into half of the assembly hall."

Norman was one of a 23 strong crew who extinguished the blaze which engulfed the red sandstone building which only recently undergone a £300,000 refurbishment.

At the time, the "News" reported: "Ironically part of the large scale renovations in the 100 year old former Largs High School had been to modernise the fire safety conditions. Head mistress, Mrs Elizabeth Bruce, staff and about 330 pupils had only moved back in a few weeks before the shock fire."

In the past, retirement for fire officers was set at 55 but that cut-off date has now been removed, and Norman is now one of the longest serving fire officers in Scotland, but is not quite the longest.

Norman began his apprenticeship as a joiner under Hamish Douglas when he used to have his joiners shop in Manse Court, behind the George Hotel.

He is a keen bowler, and has been a member at Fairlie Bowling Club for 18 years and also enjoys walking and the great outdoors.

Norman said: "The thing about being part of Scottish Fire and Rescue is that it is a whole team effort; it is not about individuality, You go out as a crew and we meet up at the fire station every Monday evening, and everyone is always there.

"The change in technology from equipment to clothing has vastly changed over the years.

"When I first started out I would have silver buttons on my uniform, a leather helmet, rubber gloves and wellington boots on and away you go.

"Nowadays, the clothing you were contains fire retardant materials with heavy gloves and you are well protected.

"I have had a few near misses over the years, but thankfully have not received any injuries while on the frontline.

"As well as great comradeship, you make great friends in the fire crew over the years.

"It was fantastic that everyone came out to celebrate my 40 year career on Monday night, and it was a lovely surprise to see some old faces at the event," said the father-of-one.

"I received a nice certificate and it was a fantastic celebration, and I have no plans of retiring any time soon."

Jim Scott is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Officer for Ayrshire and attended Norman’s ceremony.

He said: “As the Local Senior Officer for Ayrshire it was a pleasure to formally recognise Normans’ extraordinary commitment to protecting his communities over the past 40 years.

“ Norman’s dedication has seen him respond to a large number and variety of incidents and has no doubt made a positive impact on many people’s lives. I would like to thank him for his continuous service”

Are you inspired by Norman’s story? Find out more about how to become a retained firefighter by visiting www.myjobscotland.gov.uk/emergency-services/scottish-fire-and-rescue-service/retained-firefighters