DISASTERS and triumphs at Otley Fire Station stretching back nearly 70 years are captured in an archive which has come to light.

Albums of pictures and newspaper cuttings dating back to about 1950 have been handed over by a relative of a former station officer.

The photographs present what could be a unique portrait of life at the station over several decades.

The archive retells dramatic stories - such as the day Otley's streets ran with rivers of wax, the hero's welcome for the fireman who swam the Channel, and the day all the station's firemen had a win on the football pools.

Station Commander Graham Heath said the albums were given to them by a relative of former station officer D McQueen who was based at Otley from 1949 to 1975. They present a first hand record of callouts - something which was highly unusual for the time.

"There used to be a a journalist or photographer who lived opposite and when they went on a shout they used to knock on his door and he would jump into his car and follow them," Station Commander Heath said.

"These photographs are probably quite rare. It will have been unheard of at that time to have action photographs like these."

The pictures look back at long forgotten incidents such as the blaze at the candle factor of James Grisdale and Sons in Station Road. Ten brigades fought the blaze which saw flames leap 50 feet into the air. At the height of the fire a stream of molten wax flowed into Station Road. As well as massive damage to the factory itself the incident resulted in molten wax finding its way into the town's sewer. As much as three feet of was left at some of the manhole points and there was an almost total blockage of around 170 yards of main sewer. Subsequent heavy rain meant the sewers were unable to cope, and a number of cellars were flooded.

On a happier note in 1965 cheering crowds gave a hero's welcome to Otley's Channel swimmer, 35-year-old Derek Gill, when the town came out to cheer him on to a civic reception.

A book of newspaper cuttings tells an assortment of tales - including the time in 1954 when fire broke out in Sooty's workshop. The blaze took hold in an old Methodist Sunday School in Menston, which had been converted into a workshop by Sooty's creator Harry Corbett. The workshop was almost completely gutted. Among the debris was a miniature TV set and Sooty's new electric organ, which had taken a year to make at a cost of hundreds of pounds.

The albums also recall the rescue of two boys who were trapped on an island at Arthington as the River Wharfe rose five feet in a storm in 1965. Eight-year-old Philip Johnson and 12-year-old Basil Mandy had waded across the river with Philip's brother Martin, 13. As the river began to rise rapidly Martin swam back to raise the alarm. The trapped boys were brought to safety in a rescue led by George Scott, the Chief Constable of the West Riding.

Among the events recorded was pools win in 1960 when all the Otley firemen shared more than £12,000 - working out at £618 for each of the firemen.