5-year-old's thank you card overwhelms Simonsberg firefighter

Charlton Matthyse with the letter from Saba. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Charlton Matthyse with the letter from Saba. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Stellenbosch - A thank you card from a 5-year-old girl helped firefighter Charlton Matthyse make it through a 48-hour shift, which saw a team of over 100 bring the Simonsberg fire under control.

Covered in gold stars and decorated with a drawing of what appeared to be angry red flames, Matthyse said he was moved to tears when the little girl, her sister and parents on Thursday delivered the special note along with packed lunches and drinks.

"This makes it all worthwhile," Matthyse, 45, said on Friday.

"To this child, we are heroes. We may not wear superhero costumes, but she thinks the world of us and what we do. It’s overwhelming."

The letter, signed Saba, reads: "Dear firemen. I know you have been working hard for so many days. Thank you for being so brave. We appreciate all you are doing for us."

- PICS: The gruelling day of a firefighter

His fingers are still covered in soot and he reeks of smoke, which he jokes "are the perks of the job" for which he signed up 18 years ago.

"As a child I was inspired by the cartoon Groenie Die Draak about a little dragon who wants to be a firefighter," he said, as his colleagues laughed.

Matthyse was surprisingly energetic after his two-day shift.

"I am still on a high. The team made great inroads during the night and things are looking much better."

While every effort was made to protect farm houses from the flames, he was devastated that one thatched-roof home had caught alight on Thursday.

Although they managed to contain the fire to one room, he said it was extremely disappointing that someone’s home was affected.

"The homeowner was very grateful for what we did and expressed his thanks to me, pointing out that I had spent six hours killing the fire on his roof. I hadn’t even realised it had been that long."

The card from Saba (Tammy Petersen, News24)


Kitted out in his uniform, a fireman preparing for his shift closed his eyes for a short prayer.

"Right, now I am ready," he said with a smile.

The firefighter, who asked not to be named, said he was proud to be part of the team.

He described his relationship with his colleagues as a strong brotherhood built on trust.

"When I turn my back, I know my brothers and my God are watching over me. My faith in this has kept me safe and injury free for the past 10 years."

According to officials, about 70% of the fire had already been contained since it broke out on Tuesday.

No further damage had been reported.

Firefighter Morne Isaacs said fires started by irresponsible behaviour were deeply frustrating and upsetting.

"This is a dangerous job. People put their own safety on the line to extinguish it before it engulfs properties, homes and lives,” he said.

“The public need to take responsibility. There are repercussions to what you do. Our fire services are under enormous pressure. Please help us by being responsible.”

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

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