‘Being a firefighter is not easy, you have to man up’
Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
For most leaders, “running towards the fire” is just rhetoric for dealing with adversity, but Mrs Duduzile Dube (38) literally leads her team into fires.
Mrs Dube is a training officer at the Bulawayo Fire Brigade and Rescue Services Department, currently training over 30 fire recruits at the Famona Station as well as local companies and individuals on how to react to different fire situations and manage fires.
“Being a firefighter is not an easy job. You really need to toughen up. You need to man up,”
“In order to be recruited, you need to be able to run 15km in 10 minutes which is basically from Cresta Hotel to the station.
After that, you need to climb the drill tower that is at the station in a few minutes and slither through a 20 metre dark tunnel to show you can survive under limited respiratory conditions,” she says with a smile.
With more than 10 years’ experience, the firefighter said she has never let her gender get in the way of her job and has worked hard to be trusted with the position she currently holds at the station.
Over the years, the daring woman has managed to show people that being a woman does not limit one from getting the job done and holding positions perceived as a preserve for men.
Being in the second group of fire recruits in 2003 where women were also recruited, Mrs Dube said women were still doubted as people thought they would not be able to handle the challenges of working at a fire station.
Mrs Dube said to make matters worse, her parents who were educationists did not understand why she decided to drop out from Bulawayo Polytechnic where she was pursuing a Diploma in Human Resources to choose such a dangerous profession.
But because she was determined, she remained adamant, stuck with her decision and graduated in 2004.
The mother of three did not stop there as she went on to be trained as a control room manner in 2006, a position that was held by ranked officers at the fire station.
She went on to become an administrative assistant after taking a short course.
In 2011, Mrs Dube acquired a Diploma in Personal Management in a bid to upgrade herself outside the fire station as her other qualifications were in-house qualifications.
She went on to get the degree she had abandoned when her calling to be a firefighter came and added another one in Geographic Information Systems and Remote Systems, which was sponsored by the Bulawayo City Council.
Recounting how it all began, Mrs Dube said a career guidance team visited her college back in 2003 and when she saw how the fire fighters were dressed and how passionately they spoke about their job, she decided to apply, much to the dismay of her parents.
“This profession is not easy, especially for us ladies. One needs to toughen up so that you are able to work in the environment. I was part of the second group of women who were recruited here and it was hard to adjust to being in an environment that was filled entirely by men. However, because I have always been a hard worker and very confident, I soon adjusted and made my way up the ladder,” she said.
The firefighter said being in the industry needs a woman who is energetic and quick to respond to calls.
She said although she does not go to the field as often as she used to, she still knows how to act in case of a fire.
She said sometime in 2007, she participated in a dangerous assignment to rescue an accident victim who was trapped in a car in Bulawayo’s city centre.
“We attend to both fire and special services calls. Not all calls are the same. I remember one of the trickiest incidents which happened at 15th Avenue and Main Street where a Honda fit was stuck right under a stationary trailer of a haulage truck. The approach to this crash involved a 360 degree size up, scene safety measures, ongoing vehicle stabilisation, safe patient access, and disentanglement of the vehicle from the patient. When all external hazards were controlled the patient was accessed. He was trapped and we used various rescue equipment and techniques to extricate the adult and handed him to the ambulance crews,” she said
Mrs Dube said in 2016, she was promoted to become a training officer, a challenge she gladly took.
She said she has been enjoying being a trainer although training men is sometimes a challenge as some of them think if they are trained by her, the training will be soft and easy for them.
“When it’s time for lessons, I’m always serious and my students all know that. I can be nice and mean at the same time, all depending on how my students behave during my lectures. Every morning, I decide on what exercise they are going to do, whether it will be indoors or outdoors and they all know not to question what I tell them. They give me the same respect they give to other male training officers,” said the trainer.
Mrs Dube said working hard and showing you are competent always pays as she was once chosen to be part of the quality control committee of the fire service where she was responsible for drafting training programmes.
“I am currently responsible for generating programme training which I take to the other supervisors who are always on the ground with the other fire fighters. They tell me when I have missed something and how we can work together to ensure the gap is filled,” said Mrs Dube.
She said women should stop labelling some jobs as a man’s job because that time has long passed. — @flora_sibanda