“PEOPLE underestimate the importance of firefighters and rescue workers and we only really understand how critical they are when we are faced with losing everything.”
These were the words of the Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip.
Delivering a keynote address at the Metro Firefighters’ thank-you lunch, held at the Grand Hotel last week, he applauded the firefighters for the bravery they displayed four weeks ago when raging fires destroyed homes and a number of buildings at Woodridge College.
At least half of the college burnt down when the school buildings engulfed in flames, but the long battle by the firefighters helped to keep the flames at bay while learners and residence staff were evacuated unharmed.
“We were really lucky in these fires. When I consider what happened to Knysna and Plettenburg Bay and other areas, we were actually extremely fortunate.
“Fires are devastating. Thirteen houses were lost there. When you lose your house you lose everything. I think our firefighters did an extraordinary job to prevent more losses,” Trollip said.
He added that the assessment of the loss could not yet be calculated.
Angelique Minnie, who has been a firefighter for 19 years, said being a firefighter was a calling and one needed to have a passion for it.
“I have wanted to do something that saves lives since I was little. I love my job, and it is an honour to receive recognition for the work we do.
The acting director of operations, Nilton Whiteboy, explained the stressful and tough working conditions that the firefighters had to endure.
“I cannot recall in my time of service having had such strong winds. The Woodridge fire was very scary. The team really went way beyond the call of duty.”
Reading through a tribute to pay appreciation to the sterling work by the fire fighters, senior director at the Fire and Emergency Services, Andre de Ridder said, “I don’t think the average person in the public can actually appreciate everything that you do. You are always risking your lives to save others.
He added “I don’t think there is any profession in the world that does all the things that the fire services do.
“You truly are the jack of all trades.”