Fighting a fire like taming a beast, says firefighter

2016-01-22 07:16
Johan Botha (right) chats with two firemen. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Johan Botha (right) chats with two firemen. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


Video shows firefighters battling huge flames in Cape winelands

2016-01-21 09:47

Watch as volunteer firefighters battle to contain massive flames in the Simonsberg region, just outside Stellenbosch.WATCH

Cape Town - Sixteen years ago, a young Johan Botha was on the frontline as a devastating inferno ravaged thousands of hectares of farmlands and vineyards in the Simonsberg area.

"Today is like déjà vu," the seasoned firefighter told News24 at the end of a gruelling 24-hour shift.

He has remained at the operations centre set up at Delvera Estate in Stellenbosch in case he is needed to assist on the third day since the inferno broke out.

"I saw the devastation the fire caused all those years ago. I want to do all I can to not see that happen again."

- PICS: An inside look into the gruelling day of a firefighter

Botha, from Bothasig, has been chasing flames for the past 36 years.

"It's anything but easy to do. Fighting a fire is not simple – it's like taming a beast," he explained.

"The flames are unpredictable and containing them is one hell of a mission. But beating them gives you an exhilaration you can't describe."

Botha, 55, greeted a group of firefighters who had arrived for a shift with handshakes and pleasantries.

"Is julle reg, manne [are you ready, guys]?" he asked them with a pat on the shoulder for each.

"Ja, definitief," [yes, definitely] they replied with confidence.

Working a full day is exhausting, he admitted, and facing flames during a heatwave makes their task even more difficult.

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

'The public is counting on us'

"But it's amazing what a joke or two among the guys can do. A minute's laughter can give you an instant boost. And we constantly encourage each other. We know what we are required to do and we do it. The public is counting on us."

The satisfaction of extinguishing a fire before it caused enormous damage was what he enjoyed most about his job.

"But watching helplessly as a fire rages, knowing there is little you can do to stop it is devastating. Seeing people cry because they lost everything… It breaks your heart."

As he waited for the call to summon him back on duty, Botha said becoming a fireman was one of the best decisions he had ever made.

"We are people with passion. The public trusts us to protect them and that's what we do. We deliver, no matter what."

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

Read more on:    cape town  |  fires

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Financial advisors – Do you need one and should you get one?

The good, the bad, and everything else you need to know when considering hiring a financial advisor.


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.