An 11-year-old autistic schoolboy who dreams of being a firefighter could soon be joining New York’s finest.
Andrew Impey, from Southsea, is being put forward as an honorary member of the world’s most famous fire service after news of his activities crossed the Atlantic.
His quest started by visiting all the fire stations run by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service but after the warm reception and support he received from local firefighters he extended this.
He recently ticked off the 999th station, the emergency services number marking a milestone on his 2,500-station journey.
He had been aiming to raise £999 for The Fire Fighters Charity but upped this to £1,943 to mark the period when the National Fire Service was born. He has so far raised more than £1,700.
In addition to stations he has visited individual departments, specialist units and even fire crews based at airports.
This year he will be visiting the US with his family to meet firefighters from the Fire Department of the City of New York.
This leg of his adventure has been arranged by a historian associated with the FDNY who heard of Andrew’s mammoth journey and has promised to give him and his family a fire tour and put them up in his own house.
Andrew will visit Ground Zero where 343 firefighters were killed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.
The schoolboy said he also hoped to see the Statue of Liberty from a fire boat and present something bearing the logo of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Andrew’s mum Kirstine, who works in a care home, said: “It is an amazing opportunity, we still can’t believe it.
“I don’t think it has sunk in for Andrew yet that he will be getting to see a completely different world.
“I am looking forward to seeing how excited he is going to be – he will be over the moon.”
She said she would also like to take Andrew to fire stations in Europe.
Dad Paul, a civil servant, said: “He has always been interested in firefighting and now, after taking him on these visits, so are we.
“The firefighters are such good role models and we can’t believe how Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have welcomed us into their blue light family.”
Andrew’s journey started when his parents took him to Havant Fire Station on Christmas Eve 2014. He returned this year to mark the occasion and bring the crews a present and festive treats.
He has already been to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on his journey while picking off many counties in between.
He has also kitted his room out as a fire station with more than 800 bits of equipment and trinkets he has been given by various services and pieces he has picked up at expos and trade shows.
He has 32 helmets, 10 full fire kits and even a mini-set of breathing apparatus as well as a control room-style map of the county and a firefighters’ pole.
Andrew said: “I can’t believe it. I am really looking forward to seeing new fire engines and meeting more firefighters.
“I hope to visit all the fire stations in the country by the time I am 18, going to the last one the day before I start work as a firefighter for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.”
Andrew has previously met Oregon firefighters, who visited Hampshire to learn the organisation’s pioneering techniques, and has been sent firefighting magazines from crews in Chicago.
He also keeps up with the UK trade magazines and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the fire service and the latest equipment.
Assistant Chief Officer Andy Bowers said: “Andrew is very much a member of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service family and we are delighted he has been given this opportunity.
“His fundraising efforts and passion for the fire service is remarkable as is the commitment of his family who have already taken him all over the country.
“We look forward to hearing about his transatlantic adventures when he returns.”
The ACO teamed up with the Hampshire schoolboy last year when he arranged a sponsored 35-mile cycle ride between six fire stations for his cause.
ACO Bowers was also one of dozens of firefighters who attended the 11-year-old’s birthday party after Andrew sent an open invite to all 1,800 employees of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – and fire chiefs from other areas.
Andrew documents his travels on social media, where he uses his middle name and is known as Andrew Dane, on #oneladschallenge.*. Words by H.Storey