Fire­men thrive in dan­ger­ous zones

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO NEWS - Richard Springo­rum

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

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