THE Queen’s representative was forced to battle some rather fierce flames earlier today.

For firefighters at the Serco International Fire Training Centre handed Sue Snowdon the controls to their appliance and allowed her to direct a jet of foam to help demonstrate their blaze-busting skills.

The Lord Lieutenant of County Durham was visiting the centre, at Durham Tees Valley Airport, to present its team with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise International Trade.

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SIFTC is one of the world’s leading aviation fire training centres and welcomes firefighters from across the world, with crews from the Middle-East, Caribbean, continental Europe and Vancouver among recent visitors.

The Queen’s award was given to the centre in recognition of outstanding achievements in export and for contributing to the UK’s international reputation.

Whilst visiting the centre, Mrs Snowdon was given the opportunity to watch firefighters in training – including a party from the German air force – perform demonstrations.

Gary Watson, business operations manager, said: “We showed her an exercise involving an engine fire on a large simulator and she loved it.

“Before that, we invited her to get into an appliance with a foam cone on the roof and then started a fire and let her operate the joystick and fire the foam at the fire.

“She was fantastic, warm and engaging and interested in all of our staff.”

Mr Watson added: “I am absolutely delighted with the award and what it means for the team here.

“It takes a lot of work delivering this training and also providing pastoral care to those who stay with us.

“When people come to us from another country, they can sometimes feel vulnerable or homesick. Our team help with all sorts of things, from sorting out phone cards to access to Skype and helping them to settle in an unfamiliar environment.”

He went on to say: “Thanks to the hard work, commitment and professionalism of the staff at the IFTC we are been able to train around 10,000 delegates from across the globe each year and position the site as one of the world’s leading aviation training centres.”