Firefighters to benefit from new Learning & Development Centre

L-R Trainee Firefighter Niamh McFall, ACFRO Aidan Jennings, Minister Swann , Damian Gill, Trainee Firefighter Mark McDaid. Photo courtesy NIFRS

Firefighters across Northern Ireland will benefit from a new training facility near Cookstown which is due to begin in May of this year.  

At a cost of £42.6million, the final phase of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) Learning and Development Centre is set to be complete by 2024.

By Declan Keogh for Emergency Times
The centre will incorporate a specialist road traffic collision training area, a training environment for collapsed buildings and a below ground rescue, a flood water rescue training facility, an academic building, mock fire station, ship and a “call out village” which will include a training scenario bungalow, semi-detached dwelling and a detached dwelling.

Felix O’Hare & Co. Ltd were appointed as the main contractor for Phase 2 of the Learning and Development Centre, Cookstown. The project marks a significant milestone for NIFRS. The contractor will work alongside the Project Team to deliver a ‘real life’, lifesaving training facility that will benefit all of Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Robin Swann visited the Northern Ireland Executive flagship project outside Cookstown recently where he met NIFRS Board Representative Ken Henning MBE, Senior NIFRS Officers and Managing Director Damian Gill, of Newry based firm Felix O’Hare & Co Ltd. 

Minister Swann said “This investment will enable NIFRS to undertake the largest capital build in their history. The facilities it provides will revolutionise how NIFRS trains and develops its people to protect everyone in Northern Ireland.”

Commenting on the range of training and development facilities planned for the new centre, Mr. Swann said “These will provide Firefighters with scenario-based realistic and repeatable training experiences, and will complement the existing Tactical Firefighting Facility on the site which has been in operation since September 2019.”

Carmel McKinney OBE is NIFRS Chairperson. She said “This is a hugely significant milestone in this visionary project of development and lifelong learning. Not only is it an investment in a safe and effective Fire and Rescue Service, it is an investment in the challenges we face in the future and the safety of everyone in Northern Ireland. On behalf of the NIFRS Board I welcome the appointment of a contractor to deliver on the largest capital build for NIFRS as we embrace what will be a transformative time in the history of our Service. I want to thank the Department of Health and the Minister for their support in this crucial project.”

L-R Trainee Firefighter Niamh McFall, ACFRO Aidan Jennings, Minister Swann , Damian Gill, Trainee Firefighter Mark McDaid. Photo courtesy NIFRS

Never before has Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service being able to train and develop its firefighters in this way. A much welcome new development for all fire service personnel across Northern Ireland. Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Aidan Jennings said “We look forward to working closely with Felix O’Hare & Co Ltd as we progress in the final phase in providing facilities to enable ‘real life’ training experiences for our Firefighters and Support Employees. Never before have we been able to train and develop our people in this way and as an organisation this will help revolutionise what we do and how we keep people safe. The delivery of Phase 2 has been achieved through years of planning and hard work by many people and I commend everyone involved in the project to date.”

This latest expansion of the Learning and Development Centre will improve Firefighter safety and enhance training experiences. The facility will afford any new recruits an excellent opportunity to develop their skills and follow in the footsteps of Officers and firefighters before them, who have provided a sterling service over many years.

Damian Gill, Managing Director – Felix O’Hare & Co Ltd said: “Felix O’Hare & Co. Ltd are thrilled to have been appointed as the main contractor for Phase 2 of the Learning and Development Centre, Cookstown. This project marks a significant milestone for NIFRS, and we are delighted to work alongside the Project Team to deliver a ‘real life’, lifesaving training facility that will benefit all of Northern Ireland. This project provides us with an opportunity to strengthen our profile in delivering outstanding landmark facilities and we look forward to working closely with the NIRFS Team, local community, and supply chain to deliver this prestigious project.”

At the end of last year, Minister Swann allocated an additional £2.05m of funding to NIFRS to help alleviate emerging financial pressures and support recruitment. 39 new recruits commenced training as firefighters with NIFRS on 4 January 2022.


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