Ceremony marks 40 years since firefighter’s death

Firefighters past and present gathered together to honour one of their own, who died 40 years ago this week.

Jeff Naylor memorial ceremony in Lund Park

Jeff Naylor was the last firefighter to die in West Yorkshire when he ran into a burning building in a bid to save others.


On the anniversary of that tragic incident, staff from the fire service came together at a special ceremony held in Keighley to remember his heroic actions, an act which will never be forgotten by the service.


Jeff was part of a team that responded to a house fire in Keighley on April 27, 1983. He ran into the burning building to save children trapped inside, working alongside his firefighting partner Steve Harrison. Jeff’s courageous efforts cost the 31-year-old father-of-two his life.


The event was by the Quiet Hero statue in Lund Park, which was named after Jeff. Speaking at the event Adrian Bairstow, Station Manager at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) said: “Jeff Naylor lost his life 40 years ago from the injuries sustained while trying to save children from a house fire, just a short walk from where we now stand. This memorial was erected by the Fire Brigade Union to remember the life of an amazing man who paid the ultimate price for his bravery.”


Jeff’s family joined fire service personnel to pay tribute to the man whose actions meant he missed ever seeing his six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He was the last firefighter to die on active duty in West Yorkshire. His death led to changes for fire services up and down the country to ensure such a tragedy like this could be prevented from happening again in such circumstances.


At the time, his uniform did not offer the protection from heat and flames that firefighters have today. With their plastic helmet strap and nylon clothing firefighters would have felt their uniform melting in the extreme heat.


SM Bairstow said: “Among those gathered here today to remember Jeff are some of his former colleagues. They have plenty of heart-warming stories about Jeff, who was not only a diligent, reliable member of their team, but was also a fast mover on the football pitch. In fact, he was so quick he was known as ‘The Whippet’ and won a number of trophies with Bradford District Football team.


“His fellow watch colleagues describe him as ‘extremely reliable’ and a ‘real worker’ - he didn’t mind grafting one bit. Jeff’s divisional commander said he was as a ‘quiet person with a quiet determination’, who was proud to serve his hometown for over eight years.


“It’s important that we remember Jeff as he was – a loving father, a team player both at work and in sports and someone who loved his job as a firefighter.”


Pictures by National World / James Hardisty.