A moving tribute to a popular fire officer whose death has left a ‘huge hole’ in County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service. PETER BARRON reports

HE was a man whose passion for public service burned strongly – and he could not have had a more fitting farewell than he received this week.

Dominic Brown loved his job as a firefighter, rising to the rank of Assistant Chief Fire Officer with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, and gaining universal respect from his colleagues.

And they came out in force to salute him on Monday after his life was tragically cut short – at just 49 – by a brain tumour that he'd fought with the courage and good humour that had made him so good at his job.

As was his wish, Dom’s coffin was transported from his local station in Spennymoor by a fire appliance to Wear Valley Crematorium, at Coundon, where he was given a guard of honour by those he had proudly served alongside.

“He was a firefighter through and through, it meant so much to him, and he deserved a firefighter’s farewell,” said Chief Fire Officer, Stuart Errington, who paid tribute to his friend during the funeral service.

As the aerial ladder platform bearing the coffin arrived, two pipers began the salute, and uniformed colleagues lined the route to the crematorium with heads bowed.

It was a send-off that had all the hallmarks of the impeccable attention to detail that Dom had brought to the fire and rescue service.

Indeed, the father-of-three had planned the funeral himself, knowing that he did not have long to live.

He joined the service as a firefighter in November 1993, was promoted to Leading Firefighter five years later, and served for four years as a training instructor before undertaking numerous management roles on his way to becoming Assistant Chief Fire Officer.

He was diagnosed with a brain tumour in March 2019 and retired from the service due to ill health in June 2020.

“He knew early on that it was incurable but, despite going through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he continued to work hard during modified duties, helping to restructure the service – planning for the future without him,” said Chief Fire Officer Errington.

“That was so typical of his courage, incredible work ethic, and his dedication to the service.”

Dom met his wife, Becky, through the fire and rescue service. Her father was Iain Davison, who was an Assistant Divisional Officer, who died of a heart attack during his service.

She also has two brothers who are firefighters, and Becky is a Watch Manager. The couple have two daughters, Sophie, ten, and Emily, six. Dom also has a son, Ewan, 22, from a previous marriage.

Music at the service featured: ‘Spring’ Allegro, Vivaldi concerto No.1; Lean On Me, by Bill Withers; Sultans of Swing, by Dire Straits; My Way, by Frank Sinatra; Because You Loved Me, by Celine Dion; and, finally, You’ll Never Walk Alone, by Lana del Ray and Gerry & The Pacemakers.

The service also featured a tribute from County Durham firefighter Johnny Regan, who rose to fame when he was runner-up in the 2002 series of Big Brother.

A memorial day, and celebration of his life, is also being planned at the fire and rescue service training centre at Bowburn on September 18 – what would have been his 50th birthday.

I encountered Dom on a number of occasions over the years, once when trying in vain to catch him out during a mock media interview that formed part of the process to recruiting him as Assistant Chief Fire Officer.

Then, most recently, when compering the Best of the Best Awards for the service two years ago. On that occasion, he received a standing ovation when he was presented with a Lifetime of Achievement Award.

Cool under pressure, engaging, humble, smiling, and full of fun, I saw then how much he meant to his colleagues.

“He was very private about his illness because he didn’t want people to feel sorry for him,” said Chief Fire Officer Errington. "His passing has left a huge hole in the service that will be impossible to fill."

Dominic Brown did County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service proud over 26 years...and the service did him proud with a farewell fit for a hero.

Rest in peace.

AND so to another local hero…It has been a privilege to follow the remarkable story of Lyndon Longhorne since he was a little boy.

Meningitis had led to him losing both legs and an arm but the boy from Crook, County Durham, displayed the most incredible courage in excelling in the swimming pool.

Inspired by his grandad, he took his first strokes as a tot, and swimming became an obsession.

Hardly a day went by when he didn’t get up at the crack of dawn to train at his local pool, determined to achieve his dream of one day competing at the Paralympics.

In 2009, I watched through misty eyes as he was declared The Northern Echo’s overall Local Hero and was given a standing ovation. Ten years later, on the 20th anniversary of those most special of awards, he was deservedly made the Champion of Champions.

Last week, while I was on holiday, I received a text from Lyndon, telling me that he had finally received the news he craved most. “Hey, mate, I’ve made the Paralympic team,” he said.

It came as the most joyful news because Lyndon has worked so hard to make his dream a reality. He has missed out on the Paralympics team more than once, but he insisted: "I'm not going to give up."

During the pandemic, when the swimming pools were locked, he trained in the sea. Imagine the effort just to get there, never mind swimming against the waves to build his strength.

Apart from his athletic achievements, Lyndon is also a lovely, positive, funny, kind human being, and I could not be more proud of what he has already achieved.

Good luck, mate.

The Northern Echo:

FINALLY, I would normally have been glued to the telly when England kick off in their Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark tonight.

Instead, I’ll be giving a virtual talk to Ripon Belles Women’s Institute.

OK, I admit that it’s not the finest example of my diary management but, in my defence, the booking was made months ago – before the possibility that football could be coming home had even registered in my mind.

I reckon I’ll miss the first 20 minutes so the TV will be on record. Therefore, under no circumstances should anyone send me any score updates.

Come on England – bring home the bacon.