Ronald Dixon lost his life in the line of duty on the 24th of February 1969. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the anniversary of his death, the 24th of February 2020.
Father of three Ron Dixon made the ultimate sacrifice whilst carrying out his duty of protecting the public when he died from the injuries which he sustained during an operation tackling a fire at Middlesbrough Laundry, Windermere Road, Middlesbrough in 1969.
Ron faced the blazing building alongside crewmate Eddie Kane, who recalled being asked to break windows to reach the flames using their helmets, with disastrous consequences. An outer wall of the building collapsed while the men were unprotected, killing Ron and injuring Eddie. Recalling that tragic night, Eddie says
“We couldn’t get a powerful enough jet to break any windows so an officer asked us to break some. We used our helmets to hammer away at the windows. But the next thing I knew, I was getting pulled out from under some rubble. The wall had collapsed on top of us, but the first thing I knew was when I woke up in hospital. One of the lads came to see me in hospital next day. Then someone came in and said ‘Ron’s gone’. It was emotional – I get emotional thinking about it now. He was a great guy – a straight-down-the-middle guy who handled himself well and was well thought of by his mates.”
And looking at the plaque, Eddie – making his first visit to the Middlesbrough station since he retired in 1995 after 27 years service – said:
“We went to the incident full of hope and confidence – we never expected something like that.”
FBU National President Ian Murray called Ron ‘a hero in the true sense of the word’ at the presentation of his Red Plaque outside Middlesborough Fire Station. The ceremony was attended by local and national FBU officials, serving and retired firefighters from across the Cleveland region, local dignitaries, and most importantly, Ron’s surviving family members. His memorial was unveiled by his daughter, Carolyn Dixon, who gave a heart-warming speech dedicated to her fallen firefighter father.
“This a very emotional moment for me. My dad was a proud man who was honoured to be a firefighter. I’m glad his grandchildren and his great grandchildren will be able to come here and see the plaque and confirm with pride the ultimate sacrifice he made. He is always in our thoughts.”
A special Cleveland Fire Brigade Flag was flown in Mr Dixon’s honour with commemorative wraiths laid down by the plaque and as members of the community paid their respects.
Chief Fire Officer of Cleveland Fire Brigade Ian Hayton said:
“51 years ago today leading firefighter Ronald Dixon lost his life in the line of duty. We are honoured to welcome his family here today to unveil an FBU firefighter memorial at Middlesbrough Community Fire Station. Our firefighters bravely and selflessly risk their lives to protect their communities and it is only right that we have a permanent reminder here that both our firefighting family and the community can see.”
Cleveland FBU secretary Davy Howe said: “These plaques serve to remind us of the sacrifices people like Ron made, and that the safety of firefighters is paramount.
“I hope Ron’s family are proud of the plaque and take the opportunity to come down and revisit it whenever they wish. It’s important it’s outside the front of the building so people will know about the incident and will be able to appreciate Ron’s selfless sacrifice. We will respect and remember what Ron did and make sure we work our hardest to ensure it never happens again. No-one should go to work and lose their life – health and safety is so important.”
Ronald served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War then joined Durham Fire Service in 1957, working out of Stockton and receiving two commendations. When the Teesside Fire Brigade was formed in 1968, he became a leading fireman and transferred to Middlesbrough. He gained his sub-officer qualifications just three weeks before he died.
The Evening Gazette of February 24, 1969, under the headline “Wall falls on firemen in big laundry blaze”, told how Mr Dixon, a married dad-of-three of Chadburn Road, Norton, and Mr Kane “were among dozens of men fighting the fire” when the wall collapsed on them.
Today, Ronald is fondly remembered by his family, former colleagues, and brothers and sisters in the FBU.
Below are memories added by those who knew Ronald Dixon or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Ronald Dixon that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Stuart Boulton