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A prestigious accolade has been presented to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – from their number one fan.
Fundraiser Andrew Impey nominated the service for an award saying it was the best public sector organisation in the area.
He then got the chance to present the commendation from Portsmouth Youth Voice Awards 2017 to Chief Dave Curry and Deputy Chief Neil Odin.
Andrew himself won the Young Person of the Year award.
The 11 year old autistic schoolboy has visited all of Hampshire’s stations and most of its departments – many of them on several occasions.
The warm welcome and support he received from HFRS started him on a fundraising mission to visit every station in the UK which he is currently about halfway through with more than 1,000 ticked off the list.
Through his travels in Hampshire he has been nominated for a number of awards and now been offered to chance to visit Fire Department City of New York (FDNY) and has plans to see stations in Europe.
Andrew, from Southsea, said: “I think of Hampshire firefighters as my friends and I was pleased I was able to give them this award. I think they are really good role models.”
He added that he hopes to one day join the county’s fire service.
Mum Kirstine said: “When we took Andrew to visit a fire station one Christmas Eve to give him something to do we could have had no idea that it would lead to this.
“At the time he could barely read and didn’t like talking to anyone – now he reads every fire magazine and gives interviews.
“The fire service has given us a child we didn’t have before.”
Andrew attends emergency services shows and expos and has picked up hundreds of trinkets and bits of kit from his visits and exhibitions.
His room has been transformed into a fire station with more than 30 helmets, piles of tunics, a control room map of London, a mini breathing apparatus set and even a firefighters’ pole.
He presented the award wearing his own miniature uniform with Hampshire insignia and chief officer rank markings.
Last year he invited the entire service to his birthday party and several crews attended along with Assistant Chief Officer Andy Bowers.
ACO Bowers also joined Andrew on a sponsored cycle ride between fire stations to collect money for The Fire Fighters Charity and raise awareness of autism.
Chief Dave Curry said: “It is a great honour to have been nominated for this award by Andrew and getting it presented by him makes it particularly special.
“He has visited every station and almost every department in Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and he is very much a member of our emergency service family.
“I know I speak for everyone in the service when I say we were delighted to see Andrew recognised for his tireless fundraising and his enthusiasm for the work we do.”
You can follow Andrew’s progress at #OneLadsChallenge