A group of 21 learner firefighters graduated after successfully completing their first training module.
The graduation took place at the Civic Centre on Friday September 30 in the presence of their future colleagues and loved ones.
In welcoming the learner firefighters to the department, the City’s Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said the graduates should be proud of themselves for successfully completing nine months of tough training.
“I hope you settle and bring with you the ethos of public service. To be in this field is a calling, and you will stand out in two instances – when you are awarded, or when you are disciplined.
“On your shoulders rests an enormous responsibility. We have huge challenges, so your job is not a simple one and your moral compass will be tested a few times. I pray that you make the right decisions, and I am confident that you will be valuable staff members.”
Chief firefighting officer Ian Schnetler reiterated the fact that being a firefighter is a calling.
“Fire has respect for no one. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from. So we are hoping that your decision to join the department was not just to get a job.
“Our firefighters are respected in the community, and to maintain that respect is entirely dependant on your conduct.
“We hope that we can leave a good legacy and that you uphold the integrity of the department. Remember to stick to your values and thank you for choosing this as a career. It’s a very noble one.”
The learner firefighters joined the firefighting 1 training course in January this year, which was the foundation phase for the requirements to join the service.
The modules that were completed included firefighter safety and PPE (personal protective equipment); building construction and property conservation; fire dynamics; fire streams and suppression; search and rescue and incident analysis.
The graduates received international accredited certification.
Among the graduates were Craig Apollis, from Grassy Park, who finally graduated after eight years of trying to get into firefighting. “Its been a long, tough journey, but today I am so honoured.
He said his determination to want to be a firefighter stems from not only wanting to serve the community, but uplifting the youth too. “The passion we showed while doing the course makes me want to be here. Everyday is different, so its about the experiences and you build another family.
“If 22 firefighters can come together and build a family, why can’t Cape Town? I came into a career where people see you as a hero, but you we can also teach the next generation to be heroes.”
He said his main challenge for not making the cut in the past was his mindset. “To be a firefighter is to be mentally strong, so that was a big challenge for me. I had to change many aspects of my life, and it is a calling, but today I am very proud. I have no words.”
In addition to his accredited certification, Renaldo Waldeck from Ravensmead also received the best overall student award.
“I put a lot of effort into my work. I put in extra hours to do what was expected of me and I stayed consistent even though I was tired after long practicals, I still went home to go over my theory.”
Mr Waldeck, who was previously a personal trainer, wanted to come a firefighter because he loved to help people. He became a seasonal firefighter, before applying for the learner firefighter course, and his passion grew as he followed the career path. “I am very happy. It’s a proud moment because we have put in a lot of work and effort and to reach the day that you graduate is a big deal. We are so excited for the future.”
Jordan Battista from Vanguard Estate said he was excited and blessed to be in the firefighting service.
He said he first got involved when a friend tried out and they decided to do it together. “He didn’t make it and I got in, so I went with it and ever since I’ve been in the service, I’ve learnt a lot and I became more passionate. Helping people is part of my personality and my nature.
“I was always intrigued by firefighting and what they do, but once I got into the service, it became more technical to me and I loved it.”
In addition to his certification, he was awarded most improved student. “During the time that I was training, I was going through a tough time at home as well and I overcame it and my new colleagues and instructors were there to carry me.”
Mikayla Jooste from Westgate in Mitchell’s Plain was among the few women to have graduated.
“I feel amazing, I didn’t think I’d be able to get here, but here I am.”
She said the idea of becoming a firefighter was always there, however, through the years, there were many things that nurtured the dream. “I’m a very active person and I’m also a people’s person, and it all made sense because firefighting includes all of that.”
This was her second year trying, and she was very proud that she had got through the training this time. “The real challenge for me was carrying the heavy drums.”
However, she said it was not to do with physical strength, but the correct mindset and determination to succeed. “This year was my year. I trained towards it and I had to overcome it. I found ways to work around this challenge and I did it.”
She said being a women in a male-dominated environment was an extra achievement.
“I want to make the statement that females are just as strong, and we can do whatever men can do.”
She said women are often looked down upon, especially in male-dominated industries, and there should be more female representation to show that “we can do whatever men can do”.
The new graduates will join their colleagues on active duty later this year.
For now, they return to the Training Academy to complete their Firefighter 2 module, which is a more advanced component including vehicle extrication, more complex fires, fire scene operations, fire origin and cause, and community risk reduction.