Councilors unanimously agreed to move forward with Part 8 for the state-of-the-art fire training center project in Tullamore at the June monthly meeting of the County Council of Offally.
Plans for the new Offaly Fire Service Training and Development Center were released in April.
Offaly County Council plans to build the new facility on a vacant overgrown site adjacent to the existing Tullamore Fire Station in Srah.
The proposal is for a two-storey fire service training and development center building with an area of 680 square meters.
It will include unisex changing rooms, a PPE storage room, a PPE drying room, a briefing room, toilets and showers, a breathing apparatus and compressor room, an office, a classroom, an office instructors, meeting rooms and a canteen.
There will also be a training tower, vehicle storage unit and cargo store and vehicle maintenance shop as well as an underground confined space training facility.
The council says the extension is necessary to facilitate the expansion of courses that can be offered, increase course capacity as well as improve the facilities currently available on site.
Offaly County Council Fire and Rescue Service has secured €900,000 funding under the ‘Fire Service Capital Scheme 2021-2025’ for the development of the training center which will provide facilities not only in Offaly but also to fire departments across the country.
The facility will provide an extensive range of courses, including national QQI courses on firefighter skills, breathing apparatus, pump operation, transportation and hazardous materials.
The center will also be used for the delivery of officer refresher courses as part of the central training program delivered nationally by the National Fire and Emergency Management Branch.
The vacant virgin land has an area of approximately 0.54 hectares.
Vehicle access to the proposed development is to be provided via the existing access to the fire station from the R443 Srah road. Pedestrian access will be provided via Pearse Park Road and the existing access road to adjacent premises.
Plans for the proposal are currently on display at Tullamore Town Hall and Tullamore Central Fire Station.
Submissions or comments on the proposed development had to be submitted by June 9.
Services director Sharon Kennedy told the June council meeting that the new center will be 80 meters from the nearest homes.
Cllr Tony McCormack said this is going to be a huge thing for the city and will provide training for people across Ireland. He said it would be financially beneficial for the city because there would be more overnight stays. ‘The pub business will benefit as well as the bed and breakfast business,’ he remarked.
“I was in Chandler, Arizona earlier this year and saw a similar fire training center in action. It’s very impressive.
Cllr John Leahy said he fully supports Part 8 for the training center (a Part 8 Planning Application is the County Council’s method of applying for planning permission). “The site is a perfect place,” he remarked. “It was very prudent to buy the site at the time. We are fortunate to have 52 firefighters in Offaly and five fire stations. They will now have a state-of-the-art training center.
Cllr Leahy said he had a great admiration for firefighters, “for a number of reasons. When they’re on duty, when they’re on call, they’re very limited in their movement; they can’t going too far in case there is a fire and they get a call. Also, when there is a fire, everyone runs away from danger, but the firefighters run into it.
“This new center will be one of the largest training centers in the country. Trainees will receive two to three weeks of training at the centre.
Cllr Frank Moran said he worked with the National Ambulance Service “and in the course of my work I have heard good things from others about the proposed training center and what a breakthrough it will be.”
The fact that it will be a regional training center will be huge, said Cllr Neil Feighery.
Cllr Seán O’Brien said a secure entrance will be required for construction traffic. “We have to be careful to take care of everyone in the area.”
Cllr Eamon Dooley said he had huge admiration for firefighters. “Every time the firefighters go out, they risk their lives,” he said, “and the least we can do is give them the best training.”
Cllr Dooley raised the issues of major bog fires and fires at solar and wind farms. “What is our plan to deal with major fires in our peatlands? I know that firefighters do not have the necessary equipment to deal with fires in solar and wind farms. We have to do something about it. Will this be integrated into the new training center?
Sharon Kennedy said bog fires can take a long time to extinguish and can draw heavily on Council resources. “We intend to reopen our discussions with Bord na Mona,” she stressed, “regarding bog fire training and securing resources for the problem.”
Eoin O’Ceilleachair, Fire Chief, thanked firefighters, their families and employers who agree to make firefighters available to deal with incidents. He said the center would be self-financing. “We have engaged with the boxing club in terms of dealing with borders,” he added. “Any access via Pearse Park will be very minimal in nature.”
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