Firefighter John Massey plans to return to his first love during his retirement years.

Mr Massey has just retired after 41 years with Whanganui Fire Service. While he has loved his time as a firefighter, Mr Massey said he is looking forward to having more time to fix cars.

"When I left school at 15 my dad told me to go and get a trade. So I did - I went and became a qualified motor mechanic. It was about the only time I did listen to my father.

"In 1975 my brother, who was a firefighter here, said, 'Come and join us.' I thought about it for a while, then decided I would."

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Mr Massey said his time with the fire service has been "excellent".

"It's like a big family here - everyone looks after each other. And the management and health and safety here is absolutely top notch. I've been treated very, very well."

In more than four decades on the job, Mr Massey has seen plenty of changes in the fire service. In particular, the type of work firefighters do has changed.

"We attend a lot more motor vehicle accidents now, and we're often the first responders for medical events. I'd say around 40 to 50 per cent of our work now is medical.

"Firefighting is still obviously very important, but it has taken more of a back seat now."

Mr Massey has never turned his back on cars. Until 1993 he worked for a mechanic on his days off; now he has his own workshop at home.

"It will be nice to spend more time there. I also love fishing - I go fishing off the Whanganui coast and do trout fishing in Taupo.

"I have plenty to do in my retirement."

That's if he is able to retire: Mr Massey has already been offered several mechanics' jobs, but he's turned them down.

"I don't think I'm ready for another job just yet."