Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s Search and Rescue dog Kirby has passed away after an eight-year career in the Service

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Kirby, aged 12, joined ECFRS from London Fire Brigade in 2012. He was put to sleep following a battle with cancer on 11 September.

Kirby officially retired early last year but continued to be part of the Service. His predecessor Darcy retired with her handler John Ball in 2017.

Station Manager Scott Meekings, Urban Search and Rescue, said: “Kirby was a key player nationally in the canine world for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and will be greatly missed, both locally and nationally.

“The modern format of USAR was borne out of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, so 11 September was a fitting date for Kirby to pass away on.”

In April 2012, just three days after Kirby finished his specialist training, he was called to a demolished house in Clacton, which had collapsed after an explosion.

Less than a minute after beginning his search, the English Springer Spaniel assisted Clacton fire crews in finding a man who had been trapped for several hours.

The incident set the tone for what was a truly remarkable tenure as the  Service’s Search and Rescue dog which saw him airlifted in helicopters, abseil down buildings and support partners including police forces, ambulance services and the military.

Other incidents attended included the collapse of Didcot Power Station in Oxfordshire in 2016, where Kirby was one of four dog teams.

Kirby featured at hundreds of open days across Essex alongside handler Graham Currie, meeting thousands of residents and helping to share key safety messages.

Ever popular at public events, Kirby has also played his part in raising hundreds of pounds for charity. Supporting Stanley’s Heroes, which raised more than £10,000 for Clacton firefighter Rob Newman’s son Stanley, was one of many great examples.

Kirby even featured on national TV on several occasions, including on the BBC’s Mega Cities documentary with Andrew Marr and in 2017 on ITV’s Inside London Fire Brigade.

Later that year, Kirby was given the Outstanding Award for Community Safety at our Celebrating our People Awards, alongside Graham and fellow Search and Rescue dog Jarvis. In 2018, they were named runners up for the same award.