A FIRE control operator who handled thousands of 999 calls has hung up her headset for the last time.

Pat Clarke, who spent much of her career working in Huntingdon answering emergency calls from all over Cambridgeshire, is retiring after more than 30 years in the job.

Mrs Clarke, whose husband Patrick is a former firefighter, started her career at Dogsthorpe Fire Station in Peterborough, handling calls for the then Hunts and Peterborough Fire Brigade.

In a career that spanned four decades Mrs Clarke, who lives in Folksworth said she has seen a lot of changes and made lots of friends.

"When I joined there were just two of us in the control room and we used pen and paper to write things down, you turned out at the station and pressed real buttons to set off the alerter in firefighter's houses.

"During the time I was off bringing up my children, the two control operations in the county came together in Huntingdon to serve the whole of Cambridgeshire - the practice also became computerised.

"We stopped writing on paper and instead typed it into a computer and it would mobilise crews."

Mrs Clarke has dealt with thousands of 999 emergency calls in her career and said every day was different.

"Bottom line is that if you remain calm then you can help someone," she said.

"You become very close to the people in your watch over the years - through the bad and the good.

"I've worked with so many people and trained many operators and it's really lovely seeing those people blossom.

"You often spend more time in that tight-knit group than you do with your partners at home and I have only been able to do my job because my husband and family have supported me and understood the pressures of working in control."