HERO Black Country firefighter Rudy Parkes hung up his fireman’s uniform for the last time this week after 30 years service with West Midlands Fire Service.
The 53-year-old watch commander at Cradley Heath Fire Station said farewell to colleagues at Cradley Heath Fire Station at midnight yesterday (Wednesday) after a distinguished career with the brigade.
As well as helping to save lives in the Black Country in his day job, Rudy has also helped to rescue earthquake victims in disaster zones all over the world, since 1990, in his role as a member of the UK’s elite International Search and Rescue team.
In 2010 his rescue efforts made international headlines when he and his team-mates pulled little girl Mia from the rubble of a collapsed nursery in quake-hit Haiti - and the following year he flew to Japan to help look for survivors after the devastating tsunami and earthquake.
Even this week he and his team-mates were on standby in case UK help was needed in the Philippines after one of the strongest typhoons in history struck.
Dudley-born Rudy, who lives in Wollescote, Stourbridge, said on his last day shift on Monday that leaving the service felt “surreal” but he added: “I’ve done exactly 30 years service. I’ve enjoyed every minute; I’ve loved coming to work but I’m ready to move on.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve done, but it’s always been a team effort, and the organisation has been absolutely wonderful to me.”
He said his biggest career call outs included covering the Handsworth riots in 1986 and being part of a 200-strong team drafted in to tackle a mammoth factory fire in Smethwick caused by a Chinese lantern a few months ago.
As well as his dedication to the fire service, the married father-of-one has devoted decades to charity work and in January 2012 he was honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.
Rudy, who grew up on The Priory in Dudley, has made around 50 trips to Romania and six to Tanzania - helping to build schools and orphanges in the poverty-stricken countries over the last 20 years.
He has also played an active role with cancer charity - the Bobby Moore Fund, which has helped to co-ordinate building schemes overseas and raise cash for research into bowel cancer.
Rudy, who spent four years in the Royal Navy before becoming a firefighter, now hopes to devote even more time to his charity work.
Later this month he’ll be returning to Tanzania for a final charity project with his colleagues from the brigade.
They aim to build a kitchen extension at an orphanage they have worked on since 2006, to provide better facilities for the 190 children who live there.
The trip will also serve as a final send off for Rudy from his firefighting friends.
Search and rescue colleague Jim McParland said: “Having been on well over 20 overseas working projects, ISAR deployments and charity missions with him over the years I felt the best leaving do would be to organise one last project in Tanzania.”
Rudy, who spent much of his career based at stations in Birmingham before becoming watch commander at Cradley Heath three years ago, is also planning a further trip to Romania and to write a book about his charity work there.
He also hopes to devote more time to the Bobby Moore Fund.
Vij Randeniya, chief fire officer of the West Midlands, said: “Rudy lived for and loved his job, and will be sorely missed in retirement.
"His tireless charitable efforts speak for themselves, but I would add a huge thank you on behalf of everyone who’s benefited from his work.”