Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal officially opened the new Huntingdon Fire Station and Service training centre yesterday (Wednesday). More than 100 people – made up of fire service staff, contractors, and local civic dignitaries – welcomed her.
The Princess Royal was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire, Mrs Julie Spence OBE QPM, and introduced to fire authority chair Edna Murphy, deputy chief executive for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) Matthew Warren and assistant chief fire Officer Jon Anderson.
Her Royal Highness was guided on the tour by Group Commander Simon Thompson.
First to meet HRH were employees from CFRS involved in the project as well as contractors including Artisan and Crofton Engineering who designed and built the fire station and training buildings respectively.
Along the way, The Princess Royal was treated to three demonstrations by firefighters and training centre instructors showing rope rescue, road traffic collision and large animal rescue techniques.
This included a horse rescue from a water filled ditch to replicate the unique challenges Cambridgeshire firefighters face with the large number of waterways in the county.
The tour also included meeting on-call firefighters, the community safety team, representatives from support groups and year 10 students from Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon who have designed a piece of artwork for one of the conference rooms.
Mr Warren welcomed guests and thanked all those involved in the build project for their hard work and perseverance, before inviting Her Royal Highness to unveil a commemorative plaque. As she did so, The Princess Royal expressed how much she had enjoyed her tour and meeting everyone involved.
Evlyn, aged 8, and Keevah, aged 11 – whose fathers work at the fire station – presented Her Royal Highness with a posy to conclude the event.
Mr Warren said: “It was a perfect event to officially open our new replacement fire station in Huntingdon and the Service’s new training facility and an opportunity for us to properly thank everyone who has been involved in this project.
“So much time, effort and hard work has gone into this new build by so many people, and it was fantastic to stand in front of everyone today and collectively thank them in person.
“Having Her Royal Highness with us to meet everyone, learn more about our fire and rescue service and unveil a commemorative plaque made it particularly special and something that everyone will remember and talk about for a long time.”
Evlyn, aged 8, daughter of Station Commander Paul Oliver, one of two children who presented HRH with a posy at the end of the visit: “I was excited but nervous to meet The Princess Royal. I had practiced how to curtsey, and it was very special.”
Cllr Murphy said: “It was very special to be able to demonstrate the work of our fire and rescue service to Her Royal Highness Princess Anne.
“I know how long and how much the service has wanted a new training facility that was fit for a modern-day fire and rescue service and so it is wonderful to see it complete and showcased today.”
Group Commander Thompson said: “It was a huge honour to lead Her Royal Highness around the fire station and talk to her about different aspects of the building and its use.
“It was great that we were able to showcase different aspects of the fire service to her such as our important community safety work, both wholetime and on-call response, our occupational health service and different professional support roles.”
Group Commander Vicky Best, Head of Training Centre, who showed HRH around the training facilities said: “We had three live demonstrations ongoing by firefighters and training instructors, showcasing their specialist skills in rope, road traffic collision and large animal rescue.
“HRH The Princess Royal was interested in how these skills helped in real life incidents and we were able to show her photos of actual animal rescues and road traffic collisions involving rescues from water, an increased risk in this county with the large number of waterways, particularly in the Fens.
“We were able to show how the new training facility includes a ditch we can practice in water rescues from.”
Benjamin and Howard Junior, students at Queen Katharine Academy in Peterborough, who met HRH to talk about the Fire Break programme they have recently completed with the CFRS community safety team, said: “It felt very special to meet Her Royal Highness and talk about the FireBreak programme.
“She asked us what the best part was, and we said wearing breathing apparatus and carrying out the rescue mission. We told her it has inspired us to become firefighters. It was a day we’ll remember forever.”