Working under fire: Seasonal firefighters thanked after gruelling Cape fire season

2019-04-24 05:18
Amiena Pillay at the Lakeside Fire Station. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Amiena Pillay at the Lakeside Fire Station. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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

The first time pint-sized teenager Amiena Pillay drove in a fire truck, she knew she would one day fulfil her dream of battling infernos in the coveted uniform.

Within four years, she has completed two seasonal firefighting stints and was one of 91 fully-trained members of the 2018 intake whom Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato thanked on Tuesday for doing an "often thankless and dangerous job".

Seasonal firefighters are employed on a five-month contract and assist the City of Cape Town's Fire Services during the increase in wildfires over the summer period, bolstering numbers during the busiest season.

Pillay, 21, got her first taste of fighting fires when she was just 17 and requested to job shadow the team at the Roeland Street Fire Station.

"They allowed me onto the fire engine and I held a charged hose for the first time. Man, was it heavy!" she recalled.

"But right then and there, I forgot about my dream to study psychology. I knew fighting fires was what I wanted to do - it is more physical and really my kind of thing."

Straight out of Grade 12, she tried out for the seasonal firefighting programme.

One of thousands of aspiring candidates, she was put through her paces in a timed run, a reach test, push ups and sit up stints and lugged two dead loads.

Most cherished memory 

After making it over that physical hurdle and passing a comprehension and basic maths test, she was given the green light after a medical assessment and drug screening.

This was followed by a four-week wildland firefighting course where recruits were taught the basics of combating vegetation fires, the different types of equipment used for this task, as well as the specific roles and functions of each staff member when responding to a vegetation fire.

Her most cherished memory since putting on her uniform on December 1 was while fighting one of the many blazes on Signal Hill.

She had been accompanying her supervisor to get water when they noticed an unmonitored patch of burning vegetation. Unable to wait for her already burdened team and fearing the fire would spread, she faced up to it herself.

"And I killed it. It was the best experience ever."

Pillay thrives under the pressure of facing an inferno, she said. Tiny burns and being covered in soot at the end of her shift are a small price to pay knowing she potentially saved someone’s life or home.

"When I face a fire, I feel a mix of excitement and fear because of the unpredictability of what is to come. But I know what I need to do and I do my part to get it done."

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith thanked the recruits for their service and encouraged the team to apply for vacancies within the fire services once their contracts expire at the end of the month.

While her seasonal stint may soon come to an end, Pillay has applied for an 18-month fire and rescue learnership.

"Firefighting is what I was always destined to do. I may be the shortest in my squad, but I know how to hold my own. I can do everything everyone else can," a feisty Pillay said.

"Gaining this experience and getting a taste for the job confirms that this is where I am meant to be."

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    dan plato  |  jp smith  |  cape town  |  fires
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com 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

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

Hello 

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 24.com network.

Settings

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.