TRIBUTES have been paid to a heroic firefighter, with hundreds of his former colleagues turning up to his funeral at St Elphin's Church to say their final farewells.

Peter Bamber spent 30 years as part of the life-saving Blue Watch team at Warrington Fire Station before retiring in 2005.

A fire engine and the river rescue boat were parked up outside the church on May 9 so that crews could pay their respects and firefighters formed a guard of honour.

Peter's son, Paul Bamber, said: "Dad loved being a firefighter, he was very proud of it.

"It was overwhelming and fantastic to see so many firefighters at his funeral, it was a great tribute to him."

Peter, who lived in Paddington with his wife Janice, joined the fire service aged 23 and after retiring he went on to drive buses for people with special needs.

The 64-year-old was diagnosed with a brain tumour 19 months ago and died at home, surrounded by his family, on April 24.

Paul said: "He was a very strong man.

"He kept a lot to himself about things he had seen in the line of duty. But he used to take me to play football with the other fire brigade lads.

"He was also quite involved with the Christmas parties. He always dressed up as Santa Claus and the fire service's red elephant - he loved dressing up.

"I have happy memories of holidays as children and my dad doing barbecues with family - very safe barbecues.

"He used to take me and my sister to the fire station and he used to take me to the gym there. The fire service was like a second family to us.

"Dad was an inspiration to me in my own career."

Peter met his future wife at a dance at Bruche Police Training Centre, while he was considering becoming a police officer.

The couple have two children, Paul and Yvonne, and three grandsons.

Following Peter's death, the family have raised more than £1,000 for St Rocco's hospice who supported them during Peter's final days.

Paul said "He had a cracking send off, there were around 400 people at his funeral.

"Cheshire Fire did us proud."

Warrington Station manager Tony O’Dwyer added: “Pete was a valued firefighter for 30 years before his retirement.

"He was always the life and soul of the crew and the many people who filled the church were testament to how well liked he was.”