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The first ever group of Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) Firefighters to complete their training during a global pandemic have graduated today at two unique ceremonies at NIFRS Learning and Development Centre.
The 27 trainees completed 16 weeks of intensive training and also spent at least two months on Station providing support for their colleagues as part of NIFRS’ response to COVID-19. They will now begin their careers as Wholetime Firefighters, in Fire Stations across Northern Ireland.
Some of their training has looked slightly different to previous groups, such as having to socially distance where possible. Despite this they have developed the same specialist knowledge and a wide range of practical skills as previous trainee Firefighters, including tactical firefighting; breathing apparatus; road traffic collision and other rescue skills; as well as fire prevention and community safety training.
In order to comply with COVID-19 restrictions today’s graduation ceremony was different to previous ceremonies. Instead of one large ceremony, two smaller ceremonies were held to ensure social distancing, and no family members or loved ones were able to attend.
Minister of Health Robin Swann said:
“Since becoming Minister of Health in January I have had the privilege to engage with the Fire & Rescue Service and I am always struck by the remarkable men and women working so hard to protect our community.
“COVID-19 has had an immense impact on all of us in Northern Ireland. Our Health and Social Care and NIFRS employees have risen to this great challenge with strength, compassion and professionalism and I want to thank them all again for their hard work.
“These new Wholetime Firefighters are beginning their careers at a challenging time but I am sure they will also rise to that challenge and I wish them all the very best.”
NIFRS Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Michael Graham said:
“Graduation ceremonies for our new Firefighters are always a day of immense pride for everyone in our organisation. I would like to congratulate the 27 new Firefighters who have graduated today, and thank all of the trainers and support staff for their flexibility and enthusiasm, and for working so hard to train our new Firefighters in such challenging circumstances.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges to NIFRS, including how we make sure we have the right number of Firefighters in the right place at the right time to protect our community. I am grateful for all the hard work our people have done in making sure we rose to that challenge and the fact that we have successfully trained 27 new Wholetime Firefighters to such a high standard during a global pandemic, is testament to the fantastic work and dedication of all involved.
“Today’s graduates’ training may have been unique in the history of NIFRS but what these new Firefighters have in common with all the Firefighters in our long, proud history is their willingness to run towards danger to protect their community. I wish today’s graduates every success in what is a very challenging, exciting and rewarding career.”
Carmel McKinney, OBE, Chairperson of NIFRS added:
“On behalf of the NFIRS board, I want to congratulate our new Firefighters who have had such a unique training experience and wish them a long, happy and rewarding career protecting our community.
“Today’s graduation ceremony is a reminder of the importance of investing in the people of NIFRS, the organisation’s most important asset. I am pleased that organisationally there is such a strong focus on training and development to make sure all of our people have the right skills to provide a modern day, effective, Fire & Rescue Service.”