Recently, the very people who run into danger while others are running away from it, being firefighters from the Newcastle Fire Department, were met with hostility when attending a scene.
The incident saw a member of the community turning his aggression towards these emergency personnel—thereby throwing a rock at their vehicle’s window. Fortunately, no one was injured, and the vehicle did not sustain significant damage—but the question is, how often are firefighters met with hostility or deal with unconscious community members?
Following the occurrence, the Newcastillian – Online News interviewed two firefighters from the Newcastle Fire Department, Claude Windvogel and Ayanda Ndlovu, to discuss the matter.
Looking at the fire truck’s cracked windscreen, Claude explains while incidents such as this do not occur on a regular basis, they do unfortunately happen, “This usually happens in places like Siyahlahla Informal Settlement when there are protests, and the people become violent or at times such as when the town was shut down. People need to realise that despite what is going on in their community, we are neutral and are there to help save lives.”
Ayanda concurs, stating, “We are here to do our work, and we will give 110%, despite any challenges we might face.”
Moreover, as we enter the festive season, the duo stresses, when it comes to their response time, there are certain misconceptions. “We drive big vehicles, filled with a lot of water. We always do our best to respond within minutes to a call out, but there are times when people expect us to drive to a scene as if we were driving a Golf GTI. Our response time is determined from the moment we get called, which is why it is so important for the community to contact us the moment something goes wrong, so we can respond immediately,” highlights Claude.
Ayanda reminds the community of the fact that Newcastle firefighters cover both Newcastle and Madadeni—being a larger area than some might imagine.
The weight which falls upon the shoulders of firefighters sees them, at times, not only working under high-pressure situations such as having to use the jaws of life to free someone but simultaneously having to contend with passing by nosey motorists.
Claude urges Newcastillians to be cautious and vigilant when passing by the scene of a collision—especially as emergency personnel work on establishing the cause of the incident and attend to the injured. “There are some people who might try and see what is going on, but they need to be aware of the surroundings and avoid stopping at the scene, as this might cause another accident. Also, if we close the roads for the Forensics Unit to investigate, it is important to remain calm and patient as they do their investigations,” he states.
With regards to scenes whereby fires are engulfing a building or vehicle, Ayanda urges the community to keep a safe distance.
This allows firefighters to conduct their duties and ensure community members do not become a hindrance or sustain injuries. While these two firefighters offer some insight into their world, they also provide words of wisdom for the holiday season. Both firefighters urge Newcastillians to avoid burning rubbish at home as they state burning garbage on one’s property is illegal, and it increases the probability of fires raging out of control.
Furthermore, household fires are prevalent during this time of the year. Claude elaborates, “People are so busy getting things ready, making food and so on, their minds are everywhere. But before leaving the house, make sure all your kitchen appliances are off, as to avoid the possibility of a fire.” Ayanda also encourages people to get a lightning conductor for their homes, especially as storms are prevalent this time of the year.
As the two firefighters and their team prepare to keep a protective eye over the community, let us as show our gratitude to them, and assist them in their daily duties wherever possible.
Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer