City of Cape Town’s Lakeside Fire Station, Station Commander Ronald Jacobs, retires
Station Commander Ronald Jacobs of the City of Cape Town’s Lakeside Fire Station retired recently after 42 years’ service. Jacobs started working for the Cape Divisional Council Fire Service in 1978 and when the City of Cape Town advertised positions for fire fighters, he was keen to apply but the application process was withdrawn before he could apply and he decided to join law enforcement instead. Then in 1982 the City again advertised positions for fire fighters and he asked to be transferred. “It was an elite white establishment but because of the establishment of Mitchell’s Plain, they had to appoint fire fighters of colour,” said Jacobs. And so he became one of the first fire fighters of colour at the City’s Fire and Rescue Service. Throughout his career, he worked in various departments including operations, the training academy, command and control centre and fire safety. He was stationed at Hout Bay, Mitchell’s Plain, Epping, Roeland Street and Salt River, among others and at the Lakeside Fire Station for the past five years as station commander in charge of Platoon 1.
City of Cape Town Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Ian Schnetler shared the following message on the retirement of Station Commander Ronald Jacobs, “I have had the privilege of having Station Commander Jacobs in the fire and rescue service for the past four decades, the last three being with the City of Cape Town. He has always been an officer who can be relied upon to inspire and develop staff whom he has come in contact with”, said CFO Schnetler. “Being from the ‘old school’, he has experienced many changes to the service during the last two decades where final culmination into a Metropolitan Fire and Rescue Service occurred. Throughout all the changes and challenges, he has remained true to his calling as a fire fighter and officer with integrity and above all else, belief in the qualities of a good fire fighter. I wish him and his family all the best in his retirement from the service and would hope that those that he has trained and developed would continue to aspire to following in his footsteps. Thank you for your dedicated service Mr Jacobs”, added Chief Schnetler.
Divisional commander Frank Forbay, who is stationed at Lakeside, said, “Station Commander Ronald Jacobs made a substantial contribution to the fire service and left a legacy to be proud of. His work ethic was exemplary in that he dedicated his life to serving the community. He was held in high esteem by his peers, seniors and subordinates alike. Words that aptly describe him is Godly, passionate, integrity, jovial and energetic. He excelled in his role as a mentor leaving us with a wealth of knowledge and experience in so doing so he will be sorely missed. During his four decades of service, he experienced and endured political, institutional, social and cultural changes within the fire and rescue service but came through unscathed and remains true to himself. He served with pride till the moment he walked out the fire station doors on his retirement.”
Lakeside Station Commander Randall Williams said, “In 2006, Ronald Jacobs was officer in charge of Constantia and Hout Bay Fire Stations. When I met him I knew that he was a person that one could learn from; he had many years of experience, had a good reputation of someone that was a hard worker and being very hands-on around the station. On many occasions, if something at the station needed attention, he would make it at home and bring it to the station for the staff to use. I had the fortunate experience of working with SC Jacobs as a staff member two ranks below him, one rank below and eventually on his retirement, we were the same rank. He is a mentor throughout and many of the good leadership traits I have, can be attributed to his guidance as an officer and a gentleman. Ronald Jacobs was an inspiration to all and a natural leader, not because of rank but because of his personality. He is known for having too much energy and sometimes he would talk so fast that we could not figure what his was saying. He was and always will be a role model to all, young and old and his name will resonate throughout the fire services for many years after his retirement. He had an immense passion for his calling as a fire fighter and it was evident that Mr Jacobs' heart for the fire service was shared with no other. He was a family man through and through and a diligent Christian.
The following is part of an article written by Yolande du Preez of the False Bay Echo after an interview with Jacobs.
Three floors down the hull of a ship, surrounded by hot water, Ronald Jacobs, 61, saw his life flash before his eyes as a ball of fire shot over his head, missing him and a colleague by centimetres. He was the leading fire fighter attending to a fire in the docks at Cape Town harbour and he and a colleague were balancing on their knees on a fire-hose to avoid standing in hot water when someone opened a hatch on the top floor to pump foam into it. “I could see the glow of the fire and knew it would be coming toward us. I had a second to make a decision and shouted at my colleague to get down and as we did the ball of fire went over us,” he said.
Jacobs recently retired and this is just one of many memories he reminisces about after fighting fires for 42 years. A journalist reporting on a fire in an informal settlement inspired Jacobs to become a fireman. As a young man, he was fascinated by how the firemen worked and when the journalist later chose him to hold his notebook so he could record his piece to camera, Jacobs knew fighting fires was his calling. The journalist, he said, was Jacques Pauw.
Jacobs fondly remembers colleagues and traditions from days gone by. Many years ago, he said, fire stations had cooks who would prepare meals for the firemen to enjoy together as a team. However, this later stopped but the firemen decided to continue the tradition by bringing their own food, heating it at the station and eating it together.
He said that due to lockdown, he could not celebrate his farewell with his team but on his last day, they stood in two lines in front of the Lakeside Fire Station and he drove through the guard of honour with his car on his way out. “It was a very emotional moment,” he said.
He said he was happy to be home with his wife of 37 years, Barbara. “While I gave my all to my community, she gave her all to our family and supported me in everything I did,” he said. Jacobs has three children and two grandchildren. He added that while he was happy to be retired, he would always miss the adrenaline rush when the alarm sounds and you have to respond.
Fire and Rescue International commends SC Jacobs on an exemplary career and for his leadership, passion, dedication and willingness to go the extra mile. Thank you for your service, SC Jacobs and enjoy the retirement!
Sources: City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services’ CFO Ian Schnetler, spokesperson SC Jermaine Carelse, DC Frank Forbay, SC Randall Williams and the False Bay Echo