Orkney at the Forefront of Firefighting

Orkney’s firefighting training facilities took a leap forward with the unveiling of a new £1.2million  unit at Kirkwall Airport funded by the Scottish Government. It is the result of 5 years collaborative work between HIAL (Highland and Islands Airports Ltd), the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and UHI Orkney College Maritime Department.

New fire fighting facility Kirkwall

The 3 speakers were:  Chief Officer Alasdair Hay, George Farquhar HIAL Chief Fire Officer and Chair of the SFRS Board, Kirsty Darwent.

Alasdair Hay commented that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was a service for the whole of Scotland and would meet the needs of the community.  The new facility will enable firefighters to train in Orkney without the need to go away for days at a time. He pointed out the importance of delivering training in the islands where it was practical to do so. To enable this there will be full time trainers in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles but also developing the physical infrastructure required. This will hopefully encourage more people to enter the service in the communities as retained fire fighters.


Chief Officer Hay  said:

“We must equip them with the right skills, equipment and experience.”

George Farquhar, HIAL’s Chief Fire Officer reminded the audience that this was the 4th joint venture that the Aviation Fire Service had been involved in. He thanked all those who had worked to see it happen for their time and effort.

The Chair of the SFRS board, Kirsty Darwent, said that the development of the new facility had been a transformational journey but that there was a need to do things differently, investing in communities and developing the retained duty system.

Not only would a full time training post be coming to Orkney but also new equipment and appliances.

She said:

” Orkney is at the forefront of firefighting” and that ” remote and rural communities were leading the way.”

The new training unit at Kirkwall – which follows last year’s £3m upgrade to Stornoway’s fire station – is the latest stage in a significant Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investment to support retained duty system firefighters (RDS) across Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles.

The new unit contains many compartments and adds to the existing training facilities on site, including the unit used by UHI Orkney College to train sea farers in fire fighting.

The new facility will provide firefighters with the indepth knowledge and understanding of the burning characteristics and development of fires within a compartment and a structure.

A demonstration followed in one of the compartments in the new unit. Kirkwall Crew Manager Alistair Holden explained what the facilities will mean for training firefighters.

There is more to the facilities than the carbonaceous training unit. There are new units containing lockers, rest rooms and places to store equipment.

The main building contractor was Kier Construction who worked with SFRS, HIAL and UHI Orkney College Maritime Studies Department to design the layout and construction of the facilities.

 Chief Officer Alasdair Hay said:

firefightersI cannot commend the efforts of our retained firefighters enough – they are the life-blood of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and the heart and soul of their communities.

“Their dedication and selflessness is inspirational – they dedicate their free time to saving the lives of others and deserve the very best.

 “It is therefore right and proper that they are supported, trained and equipped to keep their communities safe.

 “This new facility represents not only an investment in the development and training of our firefighters – but also a clear commitment to ensuring the safety of Orkney’s communities.”

Annabelle Ewing MSP, Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister in the Scottish Government, said:

“The Scottish Government is fully committed to supporting the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and other relevant partners to continue to reduce the number of fires and fire related injuries in our communities.

“This successful continued partnership between the SFRS and the Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd is excellent news for communities and firefighters alike. It will help to protect and improve local services by delivering modern resources and training without firefighters having to leave the island.”

Reporter: Fiona Grahame



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