A FORMER Sunderland firefighter has received a top honour for his work.
Ben Walker, who served with Tyne and Wear Fire & Rescue Service across Wearside between 2002 and 2012, has been recognised by the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE).
The 35-year-old, was awarded the prestigious Godiva Award for achieving the top grades in the IFE’s Graduate examinations in fire science, fire service operations/incident command, fire safety & leadership and management.
He was presented with the award last week at the IFE’s annual general meeting and International General Assembly in Stratford Upon Avon.
Ben, who now lives in Providence in the USA, was delighted to be back in the country to pick up his award, and returned to the North East to see his old patch.
He said: “I made some very good ‘red and white’ friends when I worked on Wearside and was fortunate enough to work with many excellent firefighters and officers on Wearside who were quite inspirational in motivating my career path. They are far too numerous to mention them all, but Station Officer Alan Gash, who retired from Fulwell Fire Station, really did help me a lot and provide some great advice that I follow to this day.”
Since leaving the North East, Ben has been active in the International Fire & Rescue Association charity, preparing and delivering equipment and training to volunteer firefighters in the Third World and has also trained firefighters in the USA and Canada. However, he hasn’t ruled out a return to his professional roots in the North East.
He said: “I understand it is a very challenging time for services in the UK, particularly in Sunderland, but I’d come back in a heartbeat.
“It is a real shame that the Sunderland Central station is earmarked for closure – it has an awful lot of history and it will be very sad to see it go.
“It should be acknowledged that professional and well-resourced protective services such as the Fire Service, police and paramedics have a very positive effect on the local economies and are integral to the future wellbeing and economic growth and prosperity of cities, towns and regions.
“From personal experience, I know that the crews in Tyne & Wear are consummate, dedicated professionals and will always do their best for everyone who resides, visits and works in Tyne & Wear regardless of circumstances.
“I’d like to say hello to all of my old colleagues in the North East and hope they are well.”