THE future of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was celebrated today after a landmark 101 firefighters were welcomed to the frontline.
The elite recruits were cheered on by 400 friends and family members during a momentous ceremony at the SFRS HQ in Cambuslang.
Visitors were also treated to a series of tactical displays before applauding the trainees as they received their graduation scrolls.
The event ended a gruelling 14-week training regime that equipped the new wholetime firefighters with skills needed to protect Scotland from fires, car crashes, severe weather and terrorism.
Chief Officer Alasdair Hay warmly welcomed the future heroes to the single service.
He said: “This is a proud day for the SFRS and for the nation.
“Through their determination, passion and sheer grit these recruits have proved to us, the public and their loved ones that they are the very best Scotland has to offer.
“This is a new horizon for these 101 incredible individuals who have been moulded into brave and committed rescue specialists and will now go on to save lives.
“When I started my career around 30 years ago the focus was on putting out fires but modern risks mean we must broaden our skills and train for the unthinkable, to also overcome severe weather, terrorism and save cardiac arrest victims.
“Congratulations to each and every one graduating today – I was proud to welcome them as trainees and I am now honoured to lead them as firefighters as they go forward and play their part in ensuring the safety of the people of Scotland.”
Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing added: “I would like to welcome the new recruits and congratulate them on embarking on what will be a rewarding career in a service committed to keeping people in Scotland safe.
“They are entering a service at this exciting time as it adapts to meet modern risks and support the needs of our communities in the 21st Century.
“Having one national service allows SFRS to target resources where they are most needed and these firefighters will play an absolutely vital role in protecting the people of Scotland.
“They will also help in SFRS’ vital prevention role by sharing safety practices and engaging with local communities.”
The 101 trainees were unveiled in January this year after being hand-selected from more than 5,300 applications.
They were then split into three squads to learn vital life-saving skills at three different training facilities – Cambuslang in Glasgow, Portlethen in Aberdeenshire and Thornton in Fife.
During the three-month programme they got to grips with ladders, hoses, water and rope rescues, and tackling burning buildings.
But they also nailed down crucial fire prevention skills such as home fire safety visits – a proactive community engagement tactic that has dramatically slashed house fire callouts and saved lives.
After graduating, new firefighter Rhonda Jones, 37, looked back over her training and life before the SFRS.
The ex-Scotland footballer from Bonnyrigg, Midlothian said: “I have always been physically fit but the SFRS has tapped into a deeper mental strength to turn me into a firefighter.
“The last 14-weeks have been intense, demanding and exhausting and it’s something we can all be proud of.
“It’s a great privilege to now be able to pull on my kit and uniform as an SFRS firefighter – and I’d just like to say thanks to my family and friends who supported me in making this dream a reality.”