TWO local men have graduated in a unique Covid time firefighting training programme.
Newry man Riain Fegan and Patrick Walsh from Crossmaglen were two of 38 new Wholetime (Full-Time) Firefighters graduated from Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and will now begin their careers in Fire Stations across Northern Ireland.
This was the second group to have completed their training during a global pandemic, and they graduated today at three ceremonies at NIFRS Learning and Development Centre, Boucher.
Due to Covid-19 measures, the Firefighters were trained in three groups, two Wholetime cohorts of 12 and a group of 14 previously On-Call Firefighters who trained to become Wholetime Firefighters.
The 24 new Firefighters completed 16 weeks of training, and the On-Call to Wholetime group completed 6 weeks.
Minister of Health Robin Swann said: “This is an important milestone for all the new graduates as they commence their career with Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service,” said Mr Swann.
“I would like to commend them all for completing their training despite the challenging circumstances presented by the pandemic.
“Being a Firefighter is a true vocation which takes bravery, commitment and dedication. I would like to thank all our new Firefighters and wish them every success in their career,” he added.
The rigorous training programme allowed the Firefighters to develop specialist knowledge and a wide range of practical skills, including tactical firefighting; breathing apparatus; road traffic collision and other rescue skills; as well as fire prevention and community safety training.
NIFRS Chief Fire and Rescue Officer, Michael Graham said: “This is a hugely significant day for our 38 new Firefighters, both personally and professionally,” said Mr Graham.
“Completing Firefighter training is a considerable achievement at any time, but especially during a global pandemic, and so each of today’s graduates have performed remarkably well to get to this point.
“I would like to thank all of the trainers and support staff for getting our new Firefighters to this point in such challenging circumstances.
“Their flexibility, hard work and enthusiasm has meant that although the graduate’s training was delivered in a different way due to Covid-19 restrictions, our new Firefighters have been trained to the high standards expected by the organisation.
“Firefighting is both a vocation and a way of life.
“Today’s graduates have chosen this career because they believe in serving their community and working with others to make Northern Ireland a safer place, which is the cornerstone upon which our incredible service is built.
“I wish the graduates every success in what is a very challenging, exciting but ultimately rewarding career,” he added.