THE EARL and Countess of Wessex have visited Weymouth Fire Station to learn about the work of a safety education charity.
Edward and Sophie arrived at the safety centre on Friday afternoon to see how the charity Safewise helps educate Dorset’s young people.
Safewise delivers fire, health, and road safety education to local children.
The couple met the charity’s trustees and pupils from Conifers Primary School.
They were also taken on a tour of the building and witnessed a number of activities that regularly take place.
Alison Shelton, chief executive at Safewise, said: “Our vision is to reach out in the community and take the learning experiences into the heart of Dorset.
“We are really proud and pleased to be able to welcome the Royal Highnesses to our amazing safety centre.”
Darran Gunter, chief fire officer at Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It’s the first royal visit we have had.
“It’s a fantastic recognition of this centre and I’m particularly pleased that it’s been a little while because it allows them to see the centre as it really is and shows the community really embracing it.”
The visit coincided with a strike by firefighters over pension cuts.
Members of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) held a picket line protest outside the centre during the couple’s visit.
They joined other firefighters across the country taking part in industrial action, which will continue over the weekend.
Mr Gunter said: “It is unfortunate timing. It’s just coincidental.
“The people who are taking strike action are behaving with professionalism and dignity and exercising rights, and that’s all we can ask of them.”
Mr Gunter said more fire engines are available than there were during the last period of industrial action.
He said: “We would ask all people to remain very vigilant and not to call us for minor issues where we are not needed, but if we are needed call us and you will get a swift response.”
Simon Priest, one of the firefighters at the picket line, said they were there to try and force the government to take action.
He said: “The gist of it is they want us to work longer, pay more and get less. It’s not really fair and that’s all we’re asking for: a fair deal.”
Mr Priest said the response they received from people passing by had generally been supportive.
He added: “We have seen quite a bit of people tooting and waving as they go past.
“I think Sophie and Edward waved as they went past as well. I’m taking that as a positive.”