The ribbon was cut on the country’s first ever dedicated Young Firefighter’s Centre on Wednesday evening.
The centre, which is based in Southend Fire Station, will provide a permanent base for young firefighters at the station.
Divisional Officer Bob Wahl, Community Commander for Southend and Rochford, said: “Southend is the place where Young Firefighters began in Essex so it is fitting this should be the venue for the country’s first dedicated Young Firefighters centre.
“Thousands of young people have benefitted from this scheme and this centre will mean that thousands more will be able to benefit in the future.”
Among the dignitaries at the grand opening were Harry Howell, the founding father of the Young Firefighters scheme He was joined by Southend Mayor and EFA member Cllr Ann Holland, Chief Fire Officer David Johnson, Essex Fire Authority Chairman Cllr Tony Hedley, Essex County Council Chairman Cllr Rodney Bass and Southend and Rochford Community Commander Divisional Officer Bob Wahl. Fire Minister Bob Neill MP was due to attend the ceremony but was unable to be present, instead sending a personal message.
A group of young people who have recently completed Young Firefighter courses in Southend gave a demonstration of the skills they had developed on the course.
As well as cutting the ribbon, Councillor Ann Holland made a special presentation to Philip Tolhurst of local solicitors Tolhurst Fisher. Mr Tolhurst is trustee of the FST Trust, major sponsors of the new centre.