Fire consultant from Reepham to work in Antarctica

Fire consultant Philip Leeder. Picture: Ian Burt

Fire consultant Philip Leeder. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The average distance commuted to work in England and Wales is nine miles, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But a self-employed fire consultant from Reepham is preparing to travel half way across the world to Antarctica to carry out his job.

Phillip Leeder, 63, who has run Anglia Fire Assessments with his wife Dawn for the past 12 years, will be working at the British Antarctic Survey's research station in Rothera.

He will spend two weeks carrying out fire risk assessments and improving the base's fire fighting capabilities.

Mr Leeder said: 'The world's coldest and windiest continent is not the sort of place many people would associate with fires.

'But they need heating there more than anywhere, and where there is heating there is always a fire risk.

'And there are always fire dangers at an industrial premises.'

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Mr Leeder worked for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service as a fire fighter and a fire officer for 37 years.

He was based in Norwich, Bowthorpe, Sprowston, Fakenham and Reepham.

He has done work for the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge for the last four years, training scientists about fire safety before they travel to Antarctica.

Through this work Mr Leeder was asked to join scientists in Rothera.

He will travel there in February and it will be the first time Mr Leeder has been to Antarctica.

He said: 'The scientists out there are working on very important research into global warming, which could affect the whole world.

'I'm just going along to make sure they can do their jobs safely.

'They have no fire service out there - they can't just call 999. They just have a small number of trained people to deal with fires, but they have other jobs as well.'

Mr Leeder will experience Antarctica's summer, when he travels there. The temperature is expected to be around zero degrees celsius and the continent will be in 24-hour daylight. Mr Leeder said: 'Conditions are so unpredictable out there. You never know what is going to happen, I could end up getting caught up in a snow storm.

'From a personal point of view, not many people get to visit Antarctica. It should be an amazing experience. I'm really looking forward to it.