I have always appreciated and admired those who put their lives on the line to protect our communities – it takes a selfless and extremely level-headed person to do what these people do. They know what a genuinely bad day really looks like and yet they wake up every day and go back to work to do what they do best – save lives! These brave people are a gift to our town, a gift that so often goes unopened or unappreciated! With the often harrowing holiday season upon us, we thought it only right to extend our appreciation to the EMS providers in our town for their hard work and dedication to their community as we find out what life is like for a hero! In this first instalment we chat to the Ballito Fire Department…
Firefighters are born – they are not made. The majority of us who become firefighters do it because we have an inherent need to help others, a passion for it and, of course, a few screws loose! Being a firefighter gives you a sense of pride in the fact that you are at the heart of the community and that you are able to make a difference – it’s an unimaginable feeling.
Biggest misconception about firefighters?
A lot of people think that all we do is put out fires, but you’d be surprised at how much we actually do – extraction of injured people, cutting open cars, medical and aquatic rescue and high-angle rescue.
On average, how many emergency situations do you attend per day?
Currently – out of season – we attend about two calls on a good day, but sometimes it goes up to five or six.
Most memorable emergency situation?
Most recently what comes to mind is the terrible accident that happened on the M4 during those heavy rains, when a police van and a BMW were involved in a head-on collision. I won’t go into details, but for most of us who were on call, it was a real eye-opener about how fast things can happen.
What is the relationship between paramedics and firefighters like?
Firefighters remove people from potentially life-threatening situations and then the medics make sure that those people are kept alive and transported to the nearest hospital to receive the necessary treatment. We work extremely closely together and run like a well-oiled machine because, without one or the other, a lot more lives would be lost.
When you’re not out on the streets, what are you doing?
Brigade Order Sixty-One is a schedule of things that have to be done every day. We maintain the equipment to make sure that everything is in working order. We do training and risk-assessments for fire prevention, and topography of the area we service. We also have to rest in order to be mentally and physically fit.
What do you love about your community?
We love the fact that they understand that if we are driving along with sirens blaring they should immediately move over, no matter what, because one day it could be them that we need to get to. Thanks, Ballito!
Number one safety tip for your community?
Burning rubbish in your backyard is a sure-fire way to start a fire and it’s illegal. But perhaps the most important is to drive within the speed limit and to drive as if your life depends on it, because it does, especially during rainy weather. You are not only putting your life in danger – you are putting the lives of everyone around you in danger! We cannot stress this enough!
What do you love about your job?
There is an adrenaline rush in this type of job. No two days are ever the same, so you have to always be on your toes. But the most rewarding feeling is to know that you have saved a life – it’s an indescribable feeling that outweighs even the most negative of feelings.
How do you handle the emotional side of it?
It makes you a bit hard and strong, but I guess you get used to it. Seeing innocent children die is probably the hardest part of it and it takes a piece out of you every time, but it teaches you to respect life and what you have, so that every time you go home you really show your family how much they mean to you.