Firefighters: Working around the clock

James Kon

Life as a firefighter is not easy. Working day and night, they respond to any emergency incident under extreme conditions in heavy storms, the hot sun as well as heavy smoke.

Besides combating blazes in buildings, houses or cars, firefighters also respond to calls for search and rescue at sea and on land, fighting bush and forest fires, saving animals and raising awareness of fire prevention in schools and business premises.

Diver Supervisor of the Fire and Rescue Department ABKS 803 Md Asmawi bin Md Fadhillah has been with the department since 2005. He has participated in many search and rescue operations at sea and rivers as well as carrying out the duties of fighting fires.

Recalling how he joined the Fire and Rescue Department, he said, “I saw my friends who joined the firefighters, dealing with emergency situations, which inspired me to also be one of them.”

In the beginning, Md Asmawi faced many obstacles and challenges in his journey to becoming a firefighter. “With the motto, ‘If others can do it, so can I’, it is not easy having to adapt and become one of the uniformed personnel to save lives in the event of emergencies. I have to always work hard to make sure that I am fully prepared mentally and physically.”

Describing his job as a firefighter, he explained, “Being a firefighter is not only extinguishing fires but also attending to calls involving accidents in the water and searching for drowned victims. I want to save lives at sea and rivers, which led to me becoming a diver specialist.”

Female firefighters at the scene of a forest fire. PHOTOS: JAMES KON
ABOVE & BELOW: ABW 1069 Norhadinah binti Haji Awang Asmadi; and Diver Supervisor of the Fire and Rescue Department ABKS 803 Md Asmawi bin Md Fadhillah inspecting diving equipment with a colleague

The working hours for fire and rescue personnel can be unpredictable, and balancing family life and work is not an easy task.

The Diver Supervisor said, “Definitely any fire and rescue personnel assigned to the fire stations around the country will need to work on a 24-hour shift. It has been a routine for me already. Despite the challenges, I still make time to spend with my family during my off day.”

Working as a firefighter, there are ups and downs. Md Asmawi’s most memorable moment is when he managed to save a life of a Jet Ski rider during an accident in the 2015 race event. His most memorable achievement is when he received an award for Exemplary Personnel in 2016.

Sharing his most heartbreaking experience, Md Asmawi said, “When I was a part of a search and rescue mission of a drowned victim at Tutong River, I found out that the victim was my uncle, a family member.”

In his message to the public interested in joining the Fire and Rescue, he said, “The career as Fire and Rescue personnel is not just a matter of getting paid at the end of the month – it is also a noble and honourable job. If carried out sincerely, it will bring you rewards in the hereafter. This goes along with the Brunei Fire and Rescue Department’s Mission ‘to work together with the community in protecting what they value’ and the Vision ‘to minimise fire-related incidents and acting professionally in dealing with any emergencies’.”

Meanwhile, female firefighter ABW 1069 Norhadinah binti Haji Awang Asmadi, who has been with the department for nine years since 2011, recalled her decision to become firefighter.

“I was inspired by the thoughts of saving lives. So I figured that being a fire fighter would give me the opportunity to help and save people.”

Describing the training in the beginning, she said, “We trained for six months. The training was very tough and challenging. I tried to overcome the challenges by training harder. Alhamdulillah, it was not impossible to go through the training due to the support from instructors.”

Touching on work and balancing lifee, she said, “It’s all about balancing life. Sometimes, we need to be on standby even on our off days in case we are needed. We make sure that we go back home safe after work to spend time with our family and loved ones.”

For Norhadinah, successfully carrying out operations and being appreciated after is memorable. “Getting a simple word of thank you is just priceless,” she shared.

Encouraging the public to be part of the Fire and rescue family, she said, “Being a firefighter is an honourable job, be one of us.”