Officials with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry say a new base for forest firefighting efforts at the airport in North Bay will better protect northern communities and firefighters.

Representatives from the province and the City of North Bay were on-hand Friday to officially open the new fire management headquarters at the Jack Garland Airport.

“North Bay becomes a regional hub for delivering the exceptional fire management services that the people of Ontario depend on,” Natural Resources Minister Kathryn McGarry was quoted as saying in a written release issued in conjunction with the announcement.

“We are committed to supporting our forest fire crews and the safety and security they provide to communities across northern Ontario.”

The opening of the new base in North Bay comes less than a year after the province unveiled a major expansion to its fire base in Sudbury.

The new base in North Bay cost the province $9.5 million.

The new facility consolidates crews and support staff from four locations into one building at the North Bay airport, the ministry said, adding that the new configuration will allow fire crews to be deployed faster to the surrounding areas and will be safer and more accessible to fire personnel.

The province said 39 new jobs will be created.

“Not only will the … headquarters centralize operations here in North Bay, it will serve as a catalyst for future development,” North Bay mayor Al McDonald was quoted as saying in Friday’s release.