Bitou volunteer and career fire fighters run adventure fundraiser fun run together
The BUCO Adventure Weekend of 2019, which took place from 19 to 21 April 2019 in Plettenberg Bay, saw career fire fighters from Bitou Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) run a five kilometre fun run side by side with their volunteer compatriots from the local Fire Management Units (FMUs) to benefit Sounds the Call, a non-profit organisation dedicated to support the volunteer fire fighters of the Bitou Associated FMUs. Adriaan Swanepoel, a senior fire fighter at Bitou FRS, says it made sense for them to run as a joint team next to each other, as “In my view, career and volunteer fire fighter should and must get along, at the end of the day, we have the same goal.” Not only did they complete the race together, they ran it in full bunker gear!
Swanepoel says, “A few of our older fire fighters (including me) and chief fire officer (CFO) all started as volunteer fire fighter many years ago and as the municipality added positions to their service, we all applied and became career fire fighters. There is a saying going around that “Fire is everyone’s fight” and at the end of the day this goes for land, business, building and house owners as there is a risk of fire everywhere you play, work or sleep and even drive.”
He says that in some municipalities there is a rivalry between professional and volunteer fire fighters but in Bitou, cooperation is key. “It is not always easy as there will always be someone with an ego. But with joint training sessions, including your FMU’s in your operation pertaining to their areas will create cooperation between career and volunteer fire fighters.”
“There just needs to be a standards set of rules that needs to be applied and followed and things should work out at the end of the day and I cannot say that we can do without our volunteers in the area,“ says Swanepoel. “We have basically set out a standard operating procedure (SOP) to our volunteers and that is that they will always be under instruction of the senior fire fighters and it needs to be followed at all times. Volunteers should also understand that they are not always equipped, trained or experienced enough to be on the front line!”
Swanepoel says they all had a great time at the social event, “There is always fun along the way, I think as fire fighters we have the ability to take grim moments and turn it into a smile between the crews (except for the very serious ones hahaha).”
Volunteers around Bitou mostly work on fires. All other incidents are normally dealt with by career fire fighters and other services. Swanepoel gave some detail of the volunteer units in Bitou.
Plett South FMU
Harkerville Rural Protection
Between the FMU’s there are seven ex-military Buffels, about 10 trailer units and around 20 skid units.
Each unit has different amount of volunteers and they are funded via their membership fees, Sound The Call fund and sometimes they even fund themselves.
Photo credit: Martin Hurwitz
Source: Adriaan Swanepoel, Bitou Municipality senior fire fighter