All-female crew waiting for call to fight fires

2020-01-14 06:00
Team Juliet, the all-female crew of the Nature Conservation Corporation that are awaiting their first call to fight a fire.

Team Juliet, the all-female crew of the Nature Conservation Corporation that are awaiting their first call to fight a fire.

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The all-female firefighters wild land crew, consisting of 15 women that completed the three month nature conservation programme at Chrysalis Academy, are rearing to go.

They are known as the Nature Conservation Corporation (NCC) all-female wild land crew and hail from Capricorn, Retreat, Philippi, Bonteheuwel, Khayelitsha and Mfuleni.

“The crew is the result of a successful partnership between the NCC, Chrysalis Academy and the (provincial) department of public works, with support from Vergelegen Wines. The project officially kicked off on 25 November 2019, after a recruitment process was performed,” says Kylie Paul, superintendent of the crew, the first of its kind in Africa. 

“There were a large number of women interested in the programme and the 15 that graduated were interviewed, performed a fitness test and were then hand selected by a large panel including myself. Every member of Team Juliet completed an elective fire fighting skill phase during their three month programme. All of them loved this part,” she says.

Chrysalis Academy is hosting them while they search for accommodation and a base.

“We are currently still searching for a home base, looking into many options, but we are lacking a degree of sponsorship on this matter. We are also trying to source a vehicle that could transport us to and from fires. Any support on this from anyone would be greatly appreciated,” Paul says.

People’s Post asked why they became firefighters and here are their responses:

Zimkhitha Nqetelo (22) from Philippi:

“The reason I became a firefighter is to rescue animals and my crew when they need me, also to destroy trees that could be a danger to all of us and animals (widow-makers).”

Tarren January (27) from Bonteheuwel, one of the crew leaders):

“When I applied to become a firefighter I knew I had to commit myself and that it would positively change my world and my perspective. I always loved being out in nature and exploring the wilderness, also because of my love for animals and new adventure, I decided that being a part of this team, I could contribute by lending a hand to this very important cause. It is an honour to be a part of this mission to save and protect wildlife, as well as human beings – instead of turning a blind eye to the beauty of nature that can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.”

Sisanda Bam (25) from Philippi:

“I want to be a firefighter to save people’s lives, communities and animals. I also like to work with people.”

Sharne Maritz (19) from Retreat:

“When I was young I witnessed my community burn down. It was horrible to see people’s lives burning away. Firefighters came but could only save some of the properties and a few people at a time. At that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Whenever I see a fire-truck drive past me I get filled with excitement, it’s a burning feeling, wishing it was me heading to the fire. Now it is. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I was told I couldn’t be a firefighter because I was a weak woman, yet that did not stop me. It’s tough, dirty, amazing and an important job.”

Anelisa Thwasile (23) from Khayelitsha:

“The reason I chose to become a firefighter is the love for the job and I am willing to take any chances that may come my way to save the world and to prove to some women and young girls that this is not only a man’s job.”

Nyameka Makeleni (25) from Khayelitsha:

“A firefighter is the closest thing to a hero. My dream was always serving my community. I am serving my community… I became a firefighter because I love it!”

Paul says the male colleagues have been a huge support from day one!

“They are so excited to have us and constantly offer advice and assistance in getting started up or on projects. They cannot wait to see us out on the line beside them. The integration with the male contingency has been effortless and really special. 

“They totally support this project and understand why it is so important. Many of the male firefighters have roots in Working on Fire, where there are male and female firefighters that are integrated into the crews,” she says.

Sesethu Stuma (male hotshot, crew leader and very experienced firefighter):

“The NCC Juliet Crew, for me, is ready to respond to any fire. From what I saw when working with them on an alien clearing job was that they have the potential and energy. I am looking forward to seeing them on the line.”

The women have been undergoing all the relevant wild land and fitness training that is required to perform this highly skilled, amazing and physical job. The crew has officially been on standby and ready to respond to call outs since Thursday 2 January 2020. 

“We have not received a call out yet, and we have faced some operational hiccups, but are constantly training, studying and eagerly awaiting our first call. As the ladies often say, “When the going gets tough, Juliet gets going,” says Paul. 

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