Western Cape fire services commemorate International Fire Fighters’ Day 2023
The Western Cape Province’s fire services commemorated International Fire Fighters’ Day 2023 on Thursday, 4 May 2023, in Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands. The event took place at the historical grounds, ‘Die Braak', in the centre of town, with a formal motorcade through town led by the drill squad cadets of the Cape Winelands District Municipality’s (CWDM) Fire Services Training Academy, followed by fire engines, crews and apparatus from the various fire services and strategic partners across the Western Cape Province. Western Cape fire services’ chief fire officers gathered alongside the Cape Winelands District Municipality Executive Mayor Dr Elna Von Schlicht, Executive Director Pietie Williams, Chaplain Daniel Solomons and various dignitaries, in salute.
Overstrand Fire and Rescue Services’ assistant chief fire officer, Angelo Aplon, welcomed all at the event at Die Braak, providing background to International Fire Fighters’ Day and the blue and red ribbon worn, saying, “The day is observed to honour the work and sacrifice made by fire fighting experts. This special day is marked to pay respect to those professionals who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”
Prayer and scripture followed by Regional District Chaplain, Daniel Solomons, who noted that fire fighters and first responders see things that no human being should see.
Western Cape Province’s chief director for Disaster Management and Fire Brigade Services, Colin Deiner, thanked all involved and said, “We see here today that there is a lot of support for the fire services. Thank you to Mossel Bay CFO Joseph Johnston, who has been chairing the Western Cape Chief Fire Officers’ Committee for a number of years now bringing stability, Cape Winelands Mayor Dr Von Schlicht and Mr Williams for their support and Western Cape Government Minister Anton Bredell and Mr Graham Paulse for their commitment. We see the impact of the money spent on the fire and rescue services. I also want to thank Etienne du Toit, head of Fire Services for the Western Cape, for his dedication and who travels a lot visiting the fire services throughout the province to ensure that our fire services are supported.” Deiner also thanked the exhibitors, volunteers and strategic partners for the support and most importantly, all the fire fighters for all they put in, highlighting the importance of what fire fighters see and experience as part of the job. “The well-being of our fire fighters is critical,” said Deiner.
Minister Anton Bredell’s media release stated that the province has 1 650 professional fire fighters and approximately 450 volunteers who serve at 96 fire stations in the province. “We had a busy fire season this past summer and last year provincial fire fighters were part of the various teams from the Western Cape that supported rescue operations after the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal. All these operations were characterised by excellent teamwork between different fire fighting units.”
Stephen Underwood of the NPO U-Turn Homeless Organisation provided insight into the history of the organisation and how it assists homeless by making the U-Turn change, equipping people with skills to overcome homelessness. The NPO, which was founded in 1997, has refined a four-phase skills development model that meets homeless clients where they are at and walks the complete journey out of homelessness with them. U-Turn’s Cathy Achilles shared her journey from being homeless to presently being part of the communications team.
Heinrich Louw, regional commander: Training at the Cape Winelands Fire Service, was the organiser of the event and the Drill Squad leader and spoke about traditions in the fire service after which he performed the traditional ringing of the bell, in memory and honour of those who gave their all. Louw also took the Drill Squad, which included cadets from Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch, Breede Valley and Working on Fire through its paces.
Councillor Reginald Farao thanked all fire fighters, attendees and dignitaries for their support and for making the event such a success.
The event also showcased various demonstrations including turntable aerial ladder drills by City of Cape Town, a hazmat and decontamination scenario and a fire fighter challenge.
Turntable aerial ladder drills The recruits of City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service Training Academy performed two turntable aerial ladder drills to demonstrate some of the multiple applications for using this appliance when performing technical rescues with Charles Royine as incident commander.
In the first drill simulating a structural collapse, a rescue stretcher was secured to the front of the rescue cage on a ramp or mount that can be set in a plurality of pivoted positions and allows for the stretcher to reach the maximum height of the ladder.
The second type of stretcher rescue was incorporated and a 3:1 mechanical advantage system was attached to the lifting eye at the base of the ladder. This attachment point allows for heavy lifting and makes allowance for a litter attendant/medic to accompany a unstable, critical or unresponsive patient where the medic could ensure patient remains stable and perform airway management or whatever medical intervention whilst suspended on the rope system. The maximum lifting force of the ladder is between 50-65 degrees.
In the second drill, the recruit fire fighters simulated a rope access worker stranded on a ledge. Two fire fighters ascended to the trapped workers position. The aerial ladder lift with two fire fighters was sent to the trapped worker and he was evacuated from the ledge. It needs to be noted that the minimum height for the lift to operate, the ladder must be extended to 27 metres or more.
The fire fighter’s challenge included various scenarios, not only challenging their fitness and skills levels but also promoting teamwork. The results were: Male category First place: Sea Harvest Time: 00:06:24:71 Second place: Overstrand Municipality Time: 00:07:05:44 Third place: Hessequa Municipality Time: 00:07:17:55 Fourth place: Garden Route Fire Time: 00:08:02:28 Fifth place: Drakenstein Fire Time: 00:08:11:75 Sixth place: Overberg District Fire Time: 00:08:13:06 Seventh place: Cape Winelands Fire1 Time: 00:09:19:38 Eight place: George Fire Time: 00:09:37:74 Ninth place: Cape Winelands Fire2 Time: 00:10:40:88
Female category First place: Sea Harvest Time: 00:09:14:69
Fire Fighters’ Ball The evening saw the Fire Fighter’s Ball held at the Stellenbosch Town Hall with live music, ED Pietie Williams as the programme director and the keynote address by Cape Winelands District Municipality Mayor, Dr Elna Von Schlicht.
Mayor Dr Von Schlicht said, “Today, on International Fire Fighters’ Day, we come together to celebrate the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. These individuals are the epitome of courage, selflessness and dedication, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for the work they do. It's not just the physical dangers of the job that make fire fighting one of the most challenging professions in the world. It's also the mental and emotional toll that comes with the job. Fire fighters are often called upon to witness and respond to some of the most traumatic situations imaginable, from devastating fires to horrific accidents. It takes an incredible amount of strength and resilience to be able to handle these situations day in and day out.”
“But despite the difficulties, fire fighters remain steadfast in their commitment to serving others. They are the ones who rush in when everyone else is running out, who risk their own safety to save the lives of strangers, who put themselves on the line to protect our homes and our communities. They do it all without hesitation, without expectation of reward and without seeking recognition for their heroism.”
“So today, we honour and celebrate the brave men and women who serve as fire fighters. We thank them for their unwavering dedication, their boundless courage, and their unyielding commitment to service. We also recognise the sacrifices that their families make in supporting them and in sharing them with the communities they serve. As the Executive Mayor, I pledge to do everything in my power to support our fire fighters and ensure they have the resources they need to carry out their duties safely and effectively. We owe them our respect, our admiration and our gratitude”, concluded Mayor Dr Von Schlicht.
Chair of the Western Cape Chief Fire Officers’ Committee, CFO Joseph Johnston, reflected on what it takes to be a fire fighter. CFO Johnston mentioned that much has changed since the days he joined the service as a ‘fireman’ compared to today where the term ‘fire fighter’ appropriately makes room for diversity. He referred to the intensity of training required and how fire fighters are moulded, from being novices to experts. “It takes gratitude to be a fire fighter; gratitude towards the ones who came before you and who invested their time, experience and effort in training you. Above all, a fire fighter must always keep learning and never stagnate.”
CFO Johnston said that despite differences and diversity, when it comes to getting the job done, they always stick together, no matter what.
Cape Winelands Fire Service’s CFO Wayne Josias concluded the evening with a word of thanks to all those involved in making the event a success and for the support received.
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