A further 24 new local recruit firefighters are bound for Newcastle in the UK next month, for six weeks of specialist training for certification as aircraft rescue firefighters.

On successful completion of their training, National Security Minister Michael Weeks said: “The newly trained Fire Officers will replace the overseas consultant firefighters from Canada on October 1.

Once the set out for the course in the UK, he said: “Each recruit will be issued with a certificate of competence in line with *CAP 699 (*Standards for the competence of Rescue and Firefighting Service personnel, developed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority).”

Updating MPs in the House on Friday, the Minister stated: “This recruitment drive represents the last phase of the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service’s emergency plan to rapidly expand and build the extra workforce capacity required to meet the new minimum staffing levels mandated by the Aerodrome Regulators.

“The Fire Services efforts to reach this stage was extraordinary because of the timings of similar recruitment drives taking place in the wider Ministry.

“Barring any unforeseen problems, the newly trained Fire Officers will replace the overseas consultant firefighters on October 1st, 2023.”

The Minister went on to say that the Newcastle International Fire Training Academy is “a world-class aircraft rescue firefighting training facility with highly qualified instructors”.

During this training, our firefighters will be required to demonstrate competence in the following areas:

• Saving and preserving endangered life at incidents
• Extinguishing fires at aircraft incidents
• Maintaining operational readiness of resources
• Site and position Vehicles at an incident location
• Implement action to resolve operational incidents
• Contain and control spillage or release of hazardous material
• Recognise airside hazards and minimise risks

He noted that the BFRS “operates the Airport Rescue Firefighting Services section which provides aircraft rescue and firefighting services for the LF Wade International Airport”, as an “essential service”.

Due to “increased staffing requirements at the airport” as it relates to “minimum duty strength and the need”, he said it was necessary “to bring in overseas firefighters to meet that revised requirement to ensure that airport operations continued uninterrupted”.

“Clearly, we could not afford, as a Country, to jeapordise the operation of the airport, which is an essential component of our economic stability and long-term sustainability,” said Mr Weeks.

“It is important for me to underscore that the Airport Rescue Firefighting Services is a Retained Government Service as part of the airport project agreement between Skyport and the Bermuda Airport Authority,” he added.

“The Bermuda Airport Authority is responsible for providing the Retained Government Service and have transferred responsibility for the delivery of the Airport Rescue Firefighting Services to the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service by way of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2007, with an amendment in 2017.

“There is no fee paid by Skyport to the Bermuda Airport Authority or to the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service for this service,” he said.

“Not all jurisdictions hire raw recruits and train them for the Fire Service. Some will only hire trained and qualified firefighters.

“Bermuda, however, hires raw recruits and trains them to be firefighters,” said Mr Weeks.

“It typically takes 24 weeks for the foundation training and then there is further specialist training. With this particular cohort, the intent is to have them certified as aircraft rescue firefighters and subsequently, deployed at the airport to replace the remaining overseas firefighters by October 1st, 2023.”

There are currently 16 overseas firefighters remaining in Bermuda “who will fulfil their contracts until they are replaced on October 1st, 2023”.

“On a related note, I can advise that we are planning to fill a number of posts in the Service resulting from retirements and recent promotions.

“This will include the Assistant Chief Fire Officer’s post,” the Minister added.

Two senior level management positions were filled earlier this month, “in alignment with the Fire Services succession plan and Departmental objectives for 2023/24”.

“This essential service provides a challenging and rewarding career and I encourage people to apply to join.”

In closing the Minister reiterated that he “made a commitment to this Country that we would replace the overseas firefighters at the airport with qualified Bermudians” earlier this year.

“This recruitment and overseas training of Bermudian firefighters will achieve that aim. This is another example of a promise made and promise kept,” said Mr Weeks.

“I hasten to thank the women and men throughout the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service for their continued outstanding service to this Country, without which, our lifeline at the airport would not be able to function and operate.”