A TEN year old boy from Portsmouth is currently in Shetland as he continues his quest to visit every fire station in the UK and Ireland while raising money for charity.
Andrew Dane, who has autism, first developed a fascination with the fire service a couple of years ago. On Wednesday the schoolboy visited fire station No.831 at Sumburgh following trips to various isles stations including Whalsay and Sandwick.
Andrew and his father will head to Bressay, Hillswick, Brae and Scalloway on Thursday, as well as paying a visit to the crew at the Sullom Voe oil terminal, while Fair Isle is planned for the weekend.
He hopes to visit around 2,330 stations in total as he raises money for the Fire Fighters Charity.
Andrew’s mother Kirstine said he first developed the keen interest after being taken to a local fire station by his dad.
He didn’t have any literacy skills at the time and lacked social ability, but his visits have encouraged him to learn to read and write, as well as to communicate better.
Within six months of meeting firefighters for the first time, Andrew had compiled a wishlist of over 2,300 stations and their postcodes.
He arrived in the isles on Tuesday morning off the NorthLink ferry from Aberdeen and will spend a week in the isles.
“The fire service in Shetland has been amazing,” Kirstine said. “They’ve made sure he will visit every fire station there.”
Andrew’s parents take it in turns to accompany him on his trips as the couple have another child back at home.
His mother says Andrew has enjoyed a remarkable development as a result of meeting fire crews and learning about the service.
“Two years ago he couldn’t read or write and he didn’t communicate with people he didn’t know, and now he communicates with firefighters,” she said.
“He sees new fire crews every day and that’s quite a big thing for a child with his disability.”
His school has also boosted Andrew’s development in reading and writing, as well as numeracy, by encouraging him to pick up books related to the fire service.
In addition to raising money for charity, the ten year old also hopes to increase awareness of autism, which sees people have difficulties in communication and interaction.
Fire crews in south Wales have even altered their fire safety speeches as a result of meeting Andrew.
“Autistic people see everything very black or white,” Kirstine said.
“South Wales realised after meeting Andrew that going out to houses where you have autistic people or people with learning disabilities and saying ‘without a smoke alarm your house will burn down’ isn’t the wisest thing to say, because they take it as it will burn down.”
- To donate to Andrew’s fundraising fire station challenge, visit http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oneladschallenge