Firefighters: Serving through fire and flames

Both Khanye and Moretsi feel that this job was a calling for them to serve others. PHOTO: Bonolo Moloi

With the colder season in our midst, the Free State is approaching that period known as veld fire or wildfire season. Bloemfontein Courant took the time to speak to your every day, heroic men and women who risk their lives to combat fires and save lives in our community.

According to Jane Khanye, Type 1 crew leader at Working on Fire’s base in Bloemfontein, she has been on the fire line for 13 years and she describes that the first time she was dispatched, she knew this was her calling. “When I first attended my first fire back in 2010, I cannot say I was truly without fear because it was my first time going out but the best way, I could describe it is that the flames were calling me in a sense. Being able to put out a spreading fire is a feeling that can’t be described. It’s a calling to serve,” said Khanye.

Jane Khanye Type 1 crew leader at Working on Fire’s base in Bloemfontein. PHOTO: Bonolo Moloi

She describes being a firefighter as a toiling job – physically and mentally – but the help of supervisors and knowing that they can help the next person keeps them going. What she finds most rewarding about her job is being able to help others, especially those who have livestock or live in or near the veld and have to deal with wildfires.

“When we first arrive on the scene, you will often find the owners of the farm looking very frustrated but as soon as we can put out and save most of what we can, that is very rewarding. Being able to essentially restore someone’s dignity or bring a smile back on their face is truly what it is all about.”

According to Modisa Moretsi, he views being a firefighter as a privilege because he gets to serve the community and save lives. As it is such a demanding job, he walks us through the daily routine they have to undergo to remain physically and mentally fit.

“We have day-to-day Physical Training and weekly fitness evaluations in which we have to meet a certain quota. Men have to run a certain distance under 12 minutes and the women have to run it under 14 minutes, followed by 40 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, and a minimum of 8 pull-ups in a minute each,” said Moretsi.

Modisa Moretsi has been serving as a firefighter for 10 years. PHOTO: Bonolo Moloi

As important as physical health is, he explains that mental health is also taken care of given the scope of their jobs.

“Clear communication is needed in this job as we rely on one another to carry out the job, so keeping yourself focused mentally is essential and always striving to keep up a good attitude,” said Moretsi.

Moretsi explained that initially, he wanted to become a social worker, but he realised that being a firefighter is right up his alley as he wanted to protect and serve. “I have been a firefighter now for 10 years and even though there have been some challenges, I would still choose it over and over again.”

Bonolo Moloi