THE last North Yorkshire fireman who helped save York Minster in 1984 has hung up his firefighting gear for the last time.

York Fire Station has said goodbye to two long-serving firefighters who between them had clocked up 72 years protecting their community.

Paul Warnock served 42 years, first as a retained volunteer fireman and later as a full-time employed fireman. Jez Russell served for 30 years.

Their colleagues prepared a special surprise for them at the end of their final shift on Blue Watch - a piper to pipe them into retirement.

"I was barely managing to hold back the tears," said Mr Warnock. "It's going to be very strange. It's been a big part of my life for 42 years.

"I'm going to miss the guys and girls. I'll find something to do."

For 24 years, Mr Warnock combined being a firefighter with a full time civilian job.

In 1984, he was part of the Acomb retained crew called to York Minster when the South Transept was struck by lightning.

In 2001, he joined the force full time.

Mr Russell said: "It's quite emotional. I definitely didn't expect the piper.

"I would like to think I've helped a few people and I'm very proud to have served our community."

Deputy chief fire officer Jon Foster made a special trip to the fire station in Kent Road to thank them for their work and wish them well in retirement.

York Station Officer Bob Hoskins said Mr Warnock was the last firefighter who attended the 1984 Minster fire to still be in service.

"Between them, their experience and all that they bring to the watch will be sorely missed."

As family members and well wishers said thank you to the retiring pair, some of their now former colleagues were off to answer a routine call.