A RETIRED firefighter will receive a British Empire Medal for services to charity and the athletics club he helped to establish.

Harold Binyon, of Howden-le-Wear, near Crook, works tirelessly for firefighting charities, and has been involved with the fire service for more than 40 years.

Originally from Lancashire, he moved to the North-East as a child and joined the fire service in 1978.

He said it was his ideal job and enjoyed the camaraderie.

Mr Binyon, who worked out of Darlington and Bishop Auckland, said: “I enjoyed every minute of it, I can remember a fire at a business in Shildon. The whole sky was light up with a glow and it sticks in my head straight away.

“On a funnier note we rescued a horse which was stuck in a ditch, it proved challenging but was also a good laugh.”

Mr Binyon received long service and good conduct medals and is a dedicated supporter of The Fire Fighters’ Charity.

He also single-handedly leads and organises stalls at fire station open days, firework displays, and fundraising evenings across the North-East which over the years have raised about £200,000. “I’m not just working for the firefighters but the firefighting community, the families and friends, if they ask for help, they’ll get it.”

He has also given mental health support to firefighters.

“As a firefighter we helped each other through some tough times, there was always a comic about to brighten the mood, now there is a big attention on mental health.”

For more than 40 years he has helped run Crook and District Athletics Club, and volunteered as a coach.

The 70-year-old still does athletics in Shildon every Tuesday.

Joint men’s captain Geoff Hewitson said: “I am delighted, it couldn’t have happened to a more thoroughly deserving bloke. He’s a club legend – come rain or shine he would be there.”

In 2016, he won the Unsung Hero award at The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards.

Mr Binyon has no idea who nominated him for his latest honour but believes it came from within the fire service. “Until I got the nomination letter in November, I did not know a thing," he said. "They kept it a big secret.”