Fire rescue dog and handler retire

Firefighter Darren Booth and his dog, Spencer, have retired.
Firefighter Darren Booth and his dog, Spencer, have retired.

A well-loved rescue dog and his handler are due to retire from the fire service after years of life-saving service.

Cleckheaton firefighter Darren Booth, who has almost 30 years of experience with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, will leave his roll as a dog handler alongside springer spaniel Spencer.

During the past four years Spencer has helped search teams to find casualties, sometimes buried within rubble, using his powerful sense of smell.

Station manager Mark Hitchcock, the service’s technical rescue officer, said: “Darren has committed a huge amount of time and effort to the USAR Canine Search Capability, both nationally and within WYFRS.

“He has helped drive national policy and the training framework, for canines and handlers, which will serve the capability well in the future.

“Over the years Darren and Spencer have become something of an ambassador and celebrity, 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.”

Spencer was first united with Darren when he was just nine weeks old in April 2008 and the duo were awarded the Canine Assessment of Competence by the Chief Fire Officers Association National Resilience in 2011.

Spencer is confident enough to search independently and is able to negotiate slippery surfaces, confined spaces, rubble piles and work at height.

The pair have been sent to around 12 incidents nationally and most recently have gained licencing from the police to assist in the search for vulnerable missing people.

Their roles will now be filled by rescue dog Eddie and handler Nigel Gill.