Firefighters are primarily responsible for responding to fires, accidents and other incidents where risks are posed to life and property. This is a very dangerous profession and a special type of person is needed to fill this position. Not everyone is prepared to rush into a burning building or attempt to pull someone from a car which has caught alight.
Fire fighters protect lives and property from fire and attempt to prevent the outbreak of fires. They also provide assistance in the event of disasters such as earthquakes, train derailments, vehicle accidents, floods and so forth.
Procedures for extinguishing fires or for handling disasters such as vehicle accidents are mostly planned and practised beforehand. However, upon arrival at the scene it remains necessary to decide upon the most suitable technique to be employed, for instance, whether to use water hoses or chemicals to extinguish a fire. Fire fighters also carry out routine tasks such as cleaning fire engines, polishing equipment and working in the radio room. They may give lectures, demonstrations and practical training sessions.
Other aspects of a fire fighter’s duties include making recommendations on fixed fire-fighting installations on building plans, such as smoke and heat detectors, sprinklers and emergency exits. They are also responsible for building inspections, the handout of trade licences and approving fire-prevention devices.
Fire fighters employed at airports provide effective fire protection for aeroplanes and buildings and also perform specialised emergency and rescue services.
During call-outs the fire fighter always works in highly stressful situations and under dangerous, uncomfortable conditions, where lives are usually at stake. Fire fighters are trained paramedics and rescuers and are also involved in other kinds of rescue work such as road, aircraft, water and fire accidents.
Much time is spent attending lectures, demonstrations and practical training courses as well as carrying out routine tasks such as working in the radio room, the fire prevention section and maintaining equipment, etc.
All staff wear uniforms, and 24-hour shift work is a standard requirement of the job. The work can be stressful and dangerous but there is a great deal of job satisfaction to be gained from providing such a valuable service to the community.
In terms of personal qualities, firefighters should be confident, resilient, flexible, strong team members, able to think quickly under pressure and able to communicate effectively.
How to Enter
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate for a diploma course
What to Study
Diploma: The 3-year N.Dip. Fire Service Technology is offered by CUT, and courses in Emergency Medical Care – CUT, CPUT, DUT, UJ, UCT.
In-service training Trainee fire-fighters receive both practical and theoretical in-service training in various aspects of fire-fighting and paramedical work before qualifying as fire-fighters. After this training, fire-fighters can qualify further by passing the exams of the South African Emergency Services Institute.
The South African Fire Service Institute provides various certificate courses, which may be taken to increase a fire fighter’s competency and improve prospects for promotion. The training is theoretical as well as practical.
- city councils
- industrial fire services
- insurance companies that assess fire damage
- engineering firms that manufacture and install fire-fighting equipment
- forestry departments
South African Emergency Services Institute
P O Box 613
Tel: (011) 660-5672 Fax: (011) 660-1887
- take courses in life saving and first aid through scouting or community groups
- find a holiday job doing forest service work for the government
- learn fire detection, prevention and control techniques
- ask permission to attend some formal fire fighting training courses