By TOTO TSARNEBA
Born out of the tragic loss of five firefighters in a 1990 wildfire in Victoria, Australia, International Firefighters Day on 4 May honours the sacrifice that firefighters make.
At a ceremony outside City Hall on Wednesday, Makana Fire Services manager William Welkom recognised the selfless acts of firefighters across the globe. “We pay tribute to firefighters who have died in duty and honour current and past firefighters,” Welkom said.
Welkom said firefighting was an essential service: “Water can be restored tomorrow, but a burning house needs immediate attention.”
Welkom quoted Susan Diane Murphree: “Firemen never die; they just burn forever in the hearts of the people whose lives they saved.
Makana Citizens Front (MCF) leader Ayanda Kota said all firefighters were this world’s Shadrachs, Meschachs and Abednegos. “They are committed to their faith and risk their lives entering burning buildings to save lives,” he said.
In the Bible, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were three Jewish boys who refused to bow down in worship King Nebuchadnezzar. They were thrown into a fiery furnace which was heated seven times hotter than normal. Through their faith, the men walked around in the furnace unharmed. The king brought the young men out of the flames, promoted them to a higher office, and decreed that the God of Israel be worshipped instead.
Platoon Commander Nosabelo Someketa led a ‘fireman’s prayer’ asking God to protect them and give them some strength to save lives.
Executive Mayor Yandiswa Vara said she recognised the work done by the Makana Fire Services and appreciated that firefighters are tasked with running towards danger instead of running away from it.
Mthetheleli Mankayi, known as George, said being a firefighter was not just a job but a calling. He started work as a volunteer in the fire department from 2003 until 2006. He became a messenger in 2007 and was employed as a firefighter in 2008.
Mankayi said there were times they came across dead people, but they remain strong and provided counselling to each other as talking is the right way to deal with traumatic experiences. With teamwork, they overcome all challenges.