Duke of Kent unveils plaque at official opening of new training facility - SLIDESHOW

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SOUTH Yorkshire’s new fire service training unit - hailed the ‘best in the world’ - has received a Royal seal of approval.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent visited the new multi-million pound training facility yesterday to mark its official opening and to see firefighters in action.

Emergency scenarios were set up to demonstrate the range of situations firefighters are faced with when they answer 999 calls.

The £2 million facility, at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s training base in Handsworth, is fitted with some of the most advanced fire simulation technology in the world, allowing fire crews to recreate conditions they are likely to encounter at real life incidents.

It features an artificial smoke generator to provide realistic conditions for search and rescue training and a room where fire ‘flashovers’ can be recreated similar to those which can develop inside burning buildings.

The three-storey facility also boasts a simulated sewer system to be used for confined space training, whilst a large steel tower rig provides facilities for firefighters to practise working at heights. There is also an area set aside for simulating road traffic collisions with enough space for firefighters to take part in three training exercises at the same time.

And part of the unit is set up to replicate the layout of residential properties, to help firefighters practise search and rescue techniques.

The Royal visitor opened the fire service’s previous fire training building in 1998 and his wife, the Duchess of Kent, opened the organisation’s former Wellington Street headquarters in 1988.

Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney, said: “The Realistic Fire Training Building is a unique building, both in terms of its state-of-the-art technology and the wide range of training opportunities it offers for our firefighters.

“Ensuring our fire crews receive the highest possible standards of training will always be one of our top priorities and I’m certain that you will not find a better firefighter training facility anywhere in the world.”

Building work on the facility began in March 2008 and firefighters began training at the start of last year.