Honouring firefighters

The tragic deaths of five firefighters in Victoria, Australia, on December 2 1998, spurred volunteer firefighter, Lieutenant Julie-Jane (JJ) Edmondson, to make a New Year’s resolution for 1999: to organise an internationally recognised symbol of support and respect for all firefighters, and a date on which this could be co-ordinated world wide.

JJ’s tireless efforts resulted in the establishment of International Firefighters’ Day (IFFD) on May 4, which coincides with
St Florian’s Day, the feast day of St Florian, the patron saint of the firefighting fraternity.

IFFD celebrations in the Western Cape this year will be jointly hosted in Stellenbosch by Cape Winelands Fire and Rescue and Stellenbosch Fire and Rescue (SF&R), and will feature fire and rescue agencies from all over the province. Hosting the event is a great honour and amounts to the equivalent of the soccer world cup, according to SF&R Chief Fire Officer, Wayne Smith.

The organising committee has been hard at work planning the event, which starts with a procession of about 45 firefighting vehicles and 130 firefighters, a number of fire and rescue demonstrations, and a team challenge competition, pitting the best of each participating agency’s firefighters against each other, in pursuit of great prizes.

It is a wonderful opportunity for members of the public to engage with the fire and rescue services, and to see first hand, how they go about their business of protecting life and property. It is an exciting day, particularly for the children. After all, who did not want to be a fireman when they were six or seven years old?

The vehicle procession departs SF&R at 8am, and will wend its way past Kayamandi, through Welgevonden and Cloetesville, down Merriman Avenue, ending at Die Braak where the formal programme will take place from 10.15am to about 3pm.

Proceedings will kick off at 10.15am, with prayer and scripture reading by Chaplain Daniel Solomons, followed by the IFFD ceremony.

Mr Smith will welcome guests and Stellenbosch mayor, Advocate Gesie van Deventer, will deliver the keynote address.

A drill squad will entertain the crowd, after which the demonstrations will commence, including the use of firefighting foam, a rope combined drill, a hazardous materials decontamination drill, a vehicle extraction drill, and a wildland fire suppression drill.

The team challenge competition, featuring four-person teams in full structure firefighting personal protective equipment, will run concurrently with the demonstrations. Teams will compete in seven physically arduous timed challenges, which showcase how demanding is the business of fire and rescue.

Proceedings conclude at 2.30pm with the team challenge prize giving, and closing remarks by Mr Smith.

Participating fire and rescue agencies include Stellenbosch Fire and Rescue, Cape Winelands Fire and Rescue, Overstrand Fire and Rescue, Overberg Fire and Rescue, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue and the Volunteer Wildfire Services.

Magic 828FM will be there on the day providing entertainment and announcement facilities.

One hundred and thirty firefighters must be fed and watered on the day, so donations are most welcome. Those who wish to donate – individuals, organisations, businesses – should contact Chaplain Solomons on daniel2004@telkomsa.net

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