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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday February 20, 2006

Fire fighter

Simon Hawkins
Fighting to make a comeback - Simon Hawkins

When Simon Hawkins became a firefighter, he achieved his childhood ambition.

Growing up in Worcestershire, it had been his aim to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Sam and join the fire service.

But in July 2004 - after 12 years as a fire officer - Simon's career appeared to be in ruins.

A high-speed motorcycle crash left him with severe injuries and doctors were forced to amputate his lower left leg.

He recovered from the accident, but the amputation put in doubt his ability to work as a firefighter.

Inside Out joins Simon twelve months after the crash.

Challenge of a lifetime

Simon running
Fighting fit - Simon proves his physical abilities

He has returned to work at Hereford and Worcester Fire Brigade.

But while colleagues are tackling fires, Simon is restricted to administration and community work - his disability preventing a return to active duty.

"When I do see them on parade, and see them working together, I do feel left out… I feel like I'm a distant cousin," he said.

"I'm doing a totally different job. What I'm doing now is non-operational."

Simon is, however, determined to return to the sharp end of fire fighting.

To do so, he must prove he is an equal to his able-bodied colleagues - and complete a series of fire service assessment tests.

We follow Simon as he attempts this challenge - and we speak to those close to the 31-year-old about his accident and the impact it has had on his life.

Simon with Lt Bill Henry of Volusia Fire Service
Action stations - finding inspiration from Bill Henry

Inside Out also travels with Simon to America as he seeks inspiration from the world's first amputee firefighter, Bill Henry.

If Simon succeeds, he will become the first amputee firefighter in Britain - and possibly even Europe - to return to active duty.

If he fails, the rest of his fire service career will be served behind a desk.

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