The FIRE chief for County Durham has taken ownership of the Queen’s Fire Service Medal after travelling down to Windsor Castle to pick up the prestigious accolade.

Stuart Errington was awarded the highest honour in the emergency services industry at the end of last year after being named in a Queen’s Honours list – but hadn’t been able to collect it, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, Stuart came face-to-face with HRH The Princess Royal last week, where the chief of fire of County Durham and Darlington Fire Service was handed the medal.

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Stuart joined County Durham Fire Brigade in January 1993 as a firefighter, and, throughout his career, has served at several fire stations and in support departments across the service.

He was appointed chief fire officer, on an interim basis, in August 2015, being made substantive on March 21, 2016.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the chief of fire has played an active role in the NFCC’s Gold Command Group. Since July 2017, Mr Errington has chaired the County Durham and Darlington Local Resilience Forum.

The Northern Echo: Stuart became chief of fire six years ago and joined the emergency service in 1993.Stuart became chief of fire six years ago and joined the emergency service in 1993.

He is now the first person in the service’s history to progress internally from firefighter to chief fire officer – and becomes one of only a handful of people to land the Queen’s Fire Service Medal.

After receiving the award, Mr Errington has highlighted that the award is for all of the people that have helped him over the years.

He said: “It is an absolute honour to receive the Queen’s Fire Service Medal and to know that the work that you do in the fire and rescue service has been formally recognised in this way.

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“I feel, however, that the award is also recognition for the many people who have supported me over many few years and especially while I have been Chief Fire Officer (CFO).

“I work with inspirational people in County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and have had the benefit for some fantastic, elected members who form the Combined Fire Authority. The fire and rescue service are a team effort, and individuals are only ever as good as the team around them.”

As well as crediting his colleagues over the years for the success, the fire chief cited that his wife, Julia, has been integral to his award successes, as well as County Durham and Darlington, which he’s called “the greatest place to live”.

The Northern Echo: Stuart with his wife Julia at Windsor Castle last week for the official ceremony for the award.Stuart with his wife Julia at Windsor Castle last week for the official ceremony for the award.

Mr Errington added: “It was lovely to have my wife Julia with me on the day to share this wonderful experience.

"Without Julia’s support over the last 20 years, I would never have been able to achieve anywhere near as much as I have in the fire and rescue service. It was only fitting that she was at my side when I got the award.

“County Durham and Darlington are fabulous places to live, work and visit, and I feel immensely proud to be the CFO for the area. The greatest thing about the role is hearing about the fantastic work my staff do every day of the week to help the people in County Durham and Darlington.

“This has been especially true during the last 20 months or so when the staff have not only continued to deliver a first-class emergency service but have also undertaken a vast amount of other essential work during the pandemic.”

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