“I JUST want people to know how proud I am of him” said the wife of a much respected fireman who has died aged 50.

David Thomas had given 30 years of unwavering service to the people of St Helens and was dubbed a “legend” by colleagues, who paid tribute to his dedication and hard work.

He spent eight months courageously fighting bowel cancer, but died on Sunday, January 6.

Married to Suzanne for more than 22 years, David, from Newton-le-Willows, had served across St Helens and Merseyside.

Suzanne, 49, described him as her “best friend”, adding: “He was decent and honest and I would often joke, asking him where his halo had gone. He would have done anything for anyone.

“He had a good heart and if you snapped him in half, it would have read ‘fire brigade’ right through.”

Suzanne said he was a principled union man, stressing that he would never bear grudges.

“He could hold a heated debate, but would shake hands afterwards,” she added.

Ending his career as watch manager at Parr, Suzanne said about David: “For a while he didn’t want to go much further because he wanted to ‘squirt water’. But he was very proud of his job. We both loved France and hoped one day to spend more time there in a place called Arras, in the North, but he had that taken away.”

Following his retirement on medical grounds on December 27, 2011, his colleagues rallied round to offer any help to him and his wife.

She explained: “They said whatever you need, we are here for you. You have nothing to worry about. The brigade offered him a car. He had to have chemotherapy every day for five weeks in Clatterbridge Hospital and they took him every day. “It was a testament to the type of character he was.”

Close friend and colleague Martin Ford, whom he knew for more than 20 years said: “Dave was dedicated to his job both as a firefighter and as a watch manager. “He also showed the same dedication as a friend to us all on the watch.

“He always led by example and always wanted to be the best at everything he did. Dave was always one of the main characters on the watch and treated his colleagues like members of his own family.

“There is a feeling of sadness around the station at the moment but already we are recalling great memories of Dave. “Every now and then the fire service has a habit of producing a legend amongst its ranks and Dave was exactly that. Dave will be sorely missed but always remembered.”