Basketball star who became a firefighter tells all in fascinating new book

A retired firefighter who was also an international basketball player has written the story of his fascinating life.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 9:05 am

Jarrow-born Colin Kirkham, 58, was part of the legendary Sunderland squad which won the national play-offs in 1981 and 1983. They were given the Freedom of Sunderland in recognition.

Their games at Crowtree Leisure Centre sometimes attracted crowds in the thousands. The club eventually became the Newcastle Eagles.

Colin had always been fascinated by fire. Aged 24 he joined Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, becoming involved with some high profile incidents, which he recounts in his new book For the Love of Fire.

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Former international basketball star turned firefighter Colin Kirkham has written a fascinating new autobiography. Picture by Zoe Kirkham.

After serving stations in South Shields and Gateshead, he was transferred to Fulwell. In 1993 Fulwell’s Red Watch found the first victim of Steven Grieveson, who would murder four teenage boys.

The next year Colin himself discovered the body of Grieveson’s third victim after being called to an allotment fire on Newcastle Road.

Colin also attended a disaster at Wearmouth Colliery in 1992, which cost Eric Evans and Gerard Sumby their lives. The mine’s underground train crashed.

This would usually have been a job for Mines Rescue, but they couldn’t be contacted. Colin had to stay above ground as his 6ft 6 inch height made it impractical for him to enter the mine.

Colin Kirkham, furthest right, with Sunderland basketball teammate Randy Haefner, during a visit to Redhouse School in 1982.

However, here are also plenty of lighter moments which he shares in the book. Colin now lives on the Isle of Man with his wife Lorna. They have a son and two daughters, all now in their 20s.

Colin said: “In 2000 I left for the Isle of Man where my wife is from. I couldn’t get in the fire brigade there, so I became a police officer. Two years later the island’s fire brigade knocked on the door and asked if I wanted a job. I was with them until I retired in 2016.

“The reason I wrote this book was that my son did a degree in geography, then decided he wanted to join the fire brigade.

“He told me ‘Every station I go in, they have a story about you. You should write a book’ I wrote some stuff during lockdown and my wife encouraged me to publish it.”

Former international basketball star turned firefighter Colin Kirkham has written a fascinating new autobiography. Picture by Zoe Kirkham.

For the Love of Fire is available from Waterstone’s and Amazon from August 12 priced £12.99.

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