A former South Yorkshire firefighter who went on to strike gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games has formally opened a new fire station in Barnsley.
Gavin Walker, aged 38, from Rotherham was handed the honour of officially opening the station on Broadway, Kingstone which went operational in August following a multi-million pound demolition and construction project.
Gavin claimed gold as part of the GB Wheelchair Rugby team at this summer’s games, having taken up the sport following a spinal injury in 2010. He’d previously served as a firefighter with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue for seven years.
Gavin, speaking at the event, said: “When the Chief Fire Officer telephoned me to ask me to perform the official opening, it felt like a massive honour and an opportunity I was only too happy to accept. I’ve always loved the fire and rescue service and I have very fond memories of my time working for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue. Massive congratulations to everyone on completing this incredible new fire station, which I am sure will serve the people of Barnsley for many, many years to come.”
Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson QFSM, said: “A great many people and organisations have been involved in this project. All have done an incredible job in creating a bright, modern, energy efficient building which provides a safe and comfortable environment for frontline firefighters to live and work in. One of our aspirations as a service is to be a great place to work and investing in our buildings is one of the many ways we are working towards achieving that vision.”
The energy efficient building replaces the 60-year-old fire station on the same site which had reached the end of its operational life.
Firefighters had been housed in a temporary facility off-site whilst the year-long construction of the new station was completed.
An existing unused building adjacent to the fire station will now be re-purposed and upgraded to host the service’s award-winning Princes Trust Team Programme initiative as well as providing space to hold events and meetings and bookings from community groups.
Energy saving measures at the new fire station include low energy, LED lighting with motion sensors.
The investment forms part of a wider, short to medium term approved plan to invest in the fire service’s property estate, with around £8 million being set aside from its reserves to modernise and improve its estate.
Gavin performed the official opening at a special event in front of staff, suppliers and dignitaries, including the Mayor of Barnsley Cllr Caroline Mickinson.