The £42.6million final phase of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service Learning and Development Centre near Cookstown is due to begin in May.
Health Minister Robin Swann made the announcement during a visit to the Northern Ireland Executive flagship project outside Cookstown today.
There 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, who have been awarded the contract which is expected to be completed in 2024.
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.
“The ambitious plans for Phase 2 include the building of a specialist driving and road traffic collision training area, a training environment for collapsed buildings and 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.
“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.”
NIFRS Chairperson Ms Carmel McKinney OBE 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.”
Aidan Jennings, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, 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.”
Damian Gill, Managing Director of 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.”
During the course of his visit, Minister Swann met some of these latest trainees who will benefit from the state-of-the-art facilities.
In December 2021, Minister Swann allocated an additional £2.05m of funding to NIFRS to help alleviate emerging financial pressures and support recruitment. Thirty nine Firefighter trainees commenced training with NIFRS on 4 January 2022.
He said: “This latest expansion of the Learning and Development Centre will improve Firefighter safety and enhance training experiences. This facility will afford our new recruits a fantastic opportunity to develop their skills and follow in the footsteps of Officers before them, who have provided a sterling service over many years. I wish them every success with their future careers.”