FORMER footballer Kevin Ball has officially opened a town’s new fire station.

The ex-Sunderland midfielder cut the ribbon at Crook’s new community fire station today (May 7) with chiefs hailing it a vast improvement on its 53-year-old predecessor.

The station on the A689 has a two-storey main building complete with rooms for community use, a gym and bays for two fire engines, and a training centre with a four-storey tower.

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Susan Johnson, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: Crook’s new community fire station is carefully equipped to provide the latest operational and training facilities for a modern fire service.”

The old fire station on Howe Terrace is currently in the process of being sold with its future use unknown.

Michele Hodgson, chairman of County Durham and Darlington Fire Authority, said: “This new building is a much needed replacement for the outdated station in Howe Terrace, which was no longer fit for a modern fire service.”

The station will be home to 15 retained crew members on 24 hour call, and will cover the Crook, Willington and Tow Law area.

Mr Ball, who made 340 appearances for Black Cats and used to live in Willington, said: “It’s a fantastic station that Crook can be proud of.”

The station is the latest in a series of new developments currently being undertaken by the fire service.

A new community station for Durham City is being built at Sniperley while a training centre is due to open in Bowburn next spring.