Funding For Recruitment Of 24 More Firefighters

March 24, 2023 | 0 Comments

“The 2023/24 budget for the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service includes funding for the recruitment of 24 additional firefighters,” Minister of National Security Michael Weeks said in the House of Assembly today [March 24].

The Minister said, “An advertisement seeking applicants for the available positions closed on March 1st. The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service accepted 250 of the 281 applications received. These applicants will be put through a series of written and physical testing, psychological tests, background checks, vetting, and interviews to identify the 24 most suitable candidates.

“The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service aims to have the new recruits on board by July 1st. Following their initial two weeks of onboarding and local training, the new recruits will travel to the United Kingdom to undergo six weeks of training and certification for airport rescue firefighting. It is anticipated that the training will be completed by the end of August 2023, allowing the newly trained firefighters to relieve the remaining overseas contracted firefighters.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to provide this Honourable House with an update on the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will recall that this Honourable House passed the Fire Safety Amendment Act 2022, on March 3rd, 2023. On that occasion I informed Honourable Members that the purpose of the Bill was to amend the Fire Safety Act 2014, to clarify that the National Fire Protection Agency Codes do not apply to airport operations, and that the UK Air Navigation [Overseas Territories] Orders and any Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements do apply to airport operations.

Mr. Speaker, the Fire Safety Act 2014 was always intended to specifically address building safety and not technical firefighting and rescue operations. The 2022 Amendment Bill became necessary to provide clarity on the matter, and has supported the Ministry of National Security and the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Services’ aim of definitively setting the minimum duty strength and resourcing requirements for the Airport Rescue Firefighting Service at the L.F. Wade International Airport.

Mr. Speaker¸ in a statement made to this Honourable House on July 1st, 2022, I advised Honourable Members and the listening public that a February 2022 Skyport Audit of the Airport Rescue Firefighting Service had raised the minimum duty strength requirements. A review of the audit was subsequently commissioned and the agreed minimum strength is now 12 firefighters per shift. This is an increase of 7 per shift over the 5 firefighters that were previously required. With the fire service already understaffed, meeting the new requirements in order to keep the airport open and able to accept flights, put an immediate and significant strain on the fire service.

Mr. Speaker, the public has been kept fully informed of the measures taken to secure adequate and qualified firefighters for the airport fire service in order to meet the new minimum strength requirements. Experienced airport rescue firefighters from overseas have been temporarily contracted to bolster the staff numbers at the airport. Simultaneously, the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service recruited 11 new firefighters, 10 of whom have completed training in the United Kingdom and are now certified airport rescue firefighters. The new firefighters have replaced 10 of the overseas contracted firefighters and are now working alongside the remaining contracted and permanent firefighters at the airport.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that the 2023/24 budget for the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service includes funding for the recruitment of 24 additional firefighters. An advertisement seeking applicants for the available positions closed on March 1st. The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service accepted 250 of the 281 applications received. These applicants will be put through a series of written and physical testing, psychological tests, background checks, vetting, and interviews to identify the 24 most suitable candidates.

Mr. Speaker, the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service aims to have the new recruits on board by July 1st. Following their initial two weeks of onboarding and local training, the new recruits will travel to the United Kingdom to undergo six weeks of training and certification for airport rescue firefighting. It is anticipated that the training will be completed by the end of August 2023, allowing the newly trained firefighters to relieve the remaining overseas contracted firefighters.

Mr. Speaker, I again wish to express my gratitude to the contracted firefighters who answered our call for assistance. Their work with the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and the Airport Rescue Firefighting Service has ensured that the airport remained open and well prepared to provide a fire or rescue response if necessary. Honourable Members and the listening public will recall that the overseas firefighters were contracted at a time when there were no additional trained airport rescue firefighters available locally. The sudden increase in the required minimum duty strength meant that resources needed to be made available immediately. Had the overseas firefighters not answered the call, there was a significant risk of the L.F. Wade losing its Category 9 rating, thereby prohibiting landing of the size of aircraft used by our regularly scheduled commercial and cargo flights.

Mr. Speaker, it should be noted that the overseas contracted firefighters have always been a temporary measure. I look forward to welcoming the new recruits to the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, who will provide a long-term solution. I have every confidence that following their training, both locally and overseas, the successful men and women will be aptly prepared to assume the very important work of ensuring that our airport remains open and rated safe to accept all scheduled flights. Adequate and well trained firefighters at the L.F. Wade International Airport are a priority of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and the Ministry of National Security. We are working together to keep Bermuda safe.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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