Strandfontein firefighter Baigum Abrahams showed off her extraordinary skills when she won the female category in the Toughest Firefighter Alive in South Africa contest for the second year in a row.
She was among the 106 firefighters who battled it out in the two-day competition at the Roeland Street Fire Station on Friday September 20 and Saturday September 21.
Baigum, 24, came in 14th place overall.
This was the sixth time the competition was held and the firefighters were tested on their fitness, endurance and skill set.
They had to complete a number of challenges in full firefighting gear, including a hose drag, obstacle course, tower ascent and an 800-metre run.
The aim of the competition is to promote a spirit of excellence and to produce firefighters who are able to compete on the international stage; to equip them with skills that enable them to perform to the peak of their abilities, to continue to push the boundaries in delivering a better, high quality service; and to boost their morale, said the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith.
Baigum’s goal was to better herself and improve her time. “It’s part of my lifestyle to keep physically active. However, for the competition, I invested a month to prepare myself well, working on technique with the rest of the TFA team. This helped me gain confidence and helped me with mental preparation,” she said.
The winners of this year’s competition will travel to Denmark next year to compete in the World Firefighters Competition.
Baigum decided to become a firefighter after she called the fire department to her then Woodlands home for help in 2014.
She had forgotten oil on the stove as she was sick and woke up to find the kitchen filled with smoke.
“I felt a sense of relief when I saw them come to my rescue. This is the same relief I wanted to give to my community, I also wanted to help people. Experiencing this inspired me,” Baigum said.
Her son Ibrahim, 5, attended the competition as Baigum wanted him to see what she does for a living.
Baigum has been based at Mitchell’s Plain Fire Station for over a year. She said everybody she meets inspires her. “You are surrounded by different people everyday and I learn a lot from them. My crew inspires me too.”
Another person that inspires her is Arlene Wehr, head of operations at the District West office, who became the first woman to fill a position at this level since the fire and rescue service was established in 1845 (“Firefighter blazes new historic trail”, July 10).
Baigum said she is proud to be wearing the uniform and the badge. “Working with fire is not always an easy duty as you’re constantly surrounded by danger. You’re all standing together for the same purpose, with bravery and honour,” said Baigum.
“Firefighting is a physically demanding job and this competition tests every aspect of what is required of them on a daily basis,” said Mr Smith.
“South African firefighters are up there with the best and have proven themselves on the international stage. There is no doubt you have to be tough to be a firefighter and there are no losers.”
Emile Conrad, 35, from George, from Eden District walked away with the main title for the fifth consecutive time, while another Strandfontein resident, Lucan Wentzel, 30, from Epping Fire Station, took fourth place at this year’s competition.
“I achieved what I set. It was hard work and I think I need a day off,” said Lucan.
He was inspired to join the fire department by his father, who is a Law Enforcement officer. He tried it, made it through the training and exams and became a firefighter, he said.
“I wanted to do something with discipline. I found it to be exciting and very positive. I am exactly where I need to be.”
For next year’s competition, Lucan wants to reach the top spot, however, he is proud of his achievement this year.