The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has broken the first ground at its new multi-million pound training facility in Newbridge.
The new centre at the East Service Delivery Headquarters will train more than 1,600 firefighters every year using the latest state-of-the-art technology to help them save more lives and protect people.
A turf-cutting ceremony that marked the first phase of construction was led by Annabelle Ewing, the Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister yesterday.
Ms Ewing said: “This state-of-the-art training facility will provide our firefighters in the east of Scotland with the vital skills they need to carry out their jobs safely and efficiently in the face of new and emerging threats to our communities.”
The 65 community fire stations across Scotland will have access to the facility which joins the National Training Centre at Cambuslang as part of an extensive training network.
The centre is scheduled to open early next year and will allow fire crews to simulate multi-vehicle road collisions and undergo specialist disaster training that will help them face risks such as terrorism and a growing elderly population.
New recruits to the fire service and serving firefighters will be trained with disused vehicles and replicas of collapsed buildings in the face of real flames and smoke during the drills that will include Urban Search and Rescue and rope rescue.
Chief officer Alasdair Hay called the turf-cutting a “momentous occasion” that was “setting a benchmark of a truly world class fire service.” He added: “There can be no clearer indication of our commitment to both our communities and our firefighters than the significant investment in this new training facility.
“It will ensure that our firefighters are trained to work through some of the most hostile environments and disaster scenarios – and reach people at times of need – using the very latest simulation technology.
The Scottish Government increased the operational budget for the Scottish Fire and Rescue service by £21.7m this year and have committed to increasing its spending capacity by £15.5m in 2018/19.
The new training centre will open just four years after the controversial closure of the national fire training college at Gullane. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service College was closed in March 2015 shortly after the single fire service was formed merging the eight separate Scottish services. After its closure, all training moved to the then newly-minted Scottish Fire and Rescue Service National Training Centre in Cambuslang.
The Newbridge HQ opened its doors in 2016 as part of a £19.1m investment. Brian Cameron, Scottish Chair of Fire Brigades Union, said: “It’s very positive that investment is being made into the fire service. We have looked at lots of building closures over the last few years including Gullane and the Laurieston headquarters.
“It’s great to see funds going back into the east. It’s good for employment and for better training.“