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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Award for explosives fire heroine
Ewan McGregor presents a Pride Of Britain award to Staff Sgt Michelle Cunningham  (Copyright The Daily Mirror/PA Wire)
Actor Ewan McGregor went to Iraq to present the award
A bomb disposal expert who put out an explosives factory fire in Hampshire has received a Pride of Britain award.

Staff Sgt Michelle Cunningham, 32, from Gloucestershire, went into the burning factory alone last year to tackle the blaze with two fire extinguishers.

Formerly a stores clerk, she only became a bomb disposal expert because she was sent on the wrong training course.

The award was presented at her base in Basra, Iraq, by actor Ewan McGregor.

Firefighters withdrew

The fire broke out in July 2006 at a defence contractor's explosives factory in Middle Wallop.

I used to order vehicle parts but was sent to the wrong training course and kept wondering why they were telling me how to defuse bombs
Staff Sgt Michelle Cunningham

Firefighters had decided it was too dangerous to go inside the burning building and one man had already died when Staff Sgt Cunningham, of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal group, decided to take action.

She marched into the building with two fire extinguishers, went to the heart of the blaze and managed to control the flames and secure hundreds of explosives.

The army nominated her for a Pride of Britain Award in recognition of her "displaying complete disregard for her personal safety" in tackling the blaze.

Cunningham, who received her award at the weekend, said she ended up with her job of defusing bombs due to a clerical error.

'I love it'

She said: "I used to work in stores, ordering vehicle parts, and was sent on the wrong training course.

"I kept wondering why they were telling me how to defuse bombs, but I thought it was a cool job.

"I'm no hero. I'm just doing a job. I love it. There aren't many jobs where you feel you can make a difference and people thank you."

Ewan McGregor, who was asked to go to Iraq to present the award, said he really wanted to meet Staff Sgt Cunningham.

He said: "Most people, and I'm one of them, would run a million miles from a bomb, it's like, 'Get me away from here', but Michelle actually walks towards them and makes them safe. Amazing."

Road shut for blast site clear-up
22 Jul 06 |  Hampshire
Probe begins into explosion death
27 Jun 06 |  Hampshire
One killed in factory explosion
26 Jun 06 |  Hampshire

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