Firemen thrive in dangerous zones
WHEN the public run away from serious incidents and danger, firemen run towards it.
These everyday heroes look danger in the eye, take care of the threat and save lives while making the ‘danger zone’ safe.
Errol Gumede (not his real name) has been working at the city fire department for 29 years, and sat down with the ZO to talk about his interesting career.
‘When going out to a scene, you need to be prepared for anything as the environment we work in is uncontrolled.
‘Your team-mate always has your back as your life is in his hands.’
Gumede has seen many things over the years and has aided in drownings, car accidents, baby deliveries and with his team has rescued entire families from burning buildings.
Witnessing and dealing with traumatic incidents comes with the territory.
‘We came across an individual who committed suicide by setting himself on fire. Unfortunately, after extinguishing the flames, it was too late to save the victim.
‘Once I heard mumbled screams coming from the rubble of a collapsed building and found victims buried by roof tiles. Fortunately we managed to save them.’
‘We also receive strange calls, such as getting a cat out of a tree or asked why the electricity is out,’ he laughs.
Firefighters make use of the Employee Assistance Programme which facilitates counselling to deal with the trauma they have to deal with on a regular basis.
A typical fire station operates with four shifts, with one team of 20 personnel working a 12-hour shift.
Teams work two day shifts and two night shifts before getting four days off. To become a firefighter, you need a matric certificate with maths and science and need to be physically fit.
‘You can complete a national diploma in fire technology and a BTech degree in fire engineering,’ Gumede says.
A trainee officer must complete a firefighter 1 and 2 course, level 3 first aid course, and hazardous materials operational level courses, which generally takes six months to complete.
‘We have our own hazardous department with personnel who are fully trained and equipped to deal with all manner of hazardous materials, such as corrosive, explosive and flammable materials.
‘One must have a passion for this career and remember that you are working in the business of preserving people’s property and saving lives.
‘So having great people skills, PR skills and remaining humble while putting on a brave face, will put you in good stead.’
Being a fireman is not just a career - it’s a brotherhood