Health Minister Robin Swann has announced that more than 120 new recruits will shortly begin training with the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS).
A total of 77 full-time and 44 on-call firefighters will commence training in groups over the coming weeks and months. Some of the new firefighters will be deployed to fire stations across NI this Autumn, with the remainder appointed early next year.
Speaking during a visit to meet fire crews at Central Fire Station in Belfast, the Minister said: "During their training, firefighters are equipped with a unique and extensive set of skills and capabilities. I commend the work they do, often in dangerous and challenging situations. We have all seen their tremendous and tireless dedication to public safety.
"This latest intake of firefighters will go a long way to ensuring our communities are protected with the vital service that NIFRS provides. I wish the new recruits all the very best for their future careers."
Minister Swann has approved the allocation of Pound 1.692m in additional funding for the recruitment of the new firefighters to support the front line, as well as the recruitment of 13 support staff, including vehicle technicians and project managers.
He added: "I am committed to supporting NIFRS and to ensuring that the organisation is sufficiently resourced to provide a safe and effective service so that communities across Northern Ireland can be assured of the best possible response when they need help."
When the latest recruits have completed their training, this will bring the number of firefighters to more than 1,800.
The new firefighters will complete their training at NIFRS Training Centre at Boucher Road in Belfast. Work is underway on the Pound 42.6m final phase of the NIFRS Learning and Development Centre near Cookstown, due for completion in 2024.
Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Andy Hearn said:
"I'd like to thank Minister Swann and his Department for this vital investment into our Service. This is an investment into public safety and into the safety of our firefighters. This additional funding enables NIFRS to continue delivering the best possible service to Northern Ireland, supporting front-line operational delivery with the intake of 77 wholetime and 44 on-call operational firefighters as well as creating 13 new support staff posts across a range of functions. Our support colleagues provide an invaluable service, helping keep people safe and contributing to the delivery of a more efficient and effective service into the future."