This week, for the first time ever an all-women brigade of firefighters, called Team Juliet, joined the efforts to contain the Noordhoek wetlands blaze, which had been raging since Sunday.
"We were extremely honoured to get the call to assist on the line. Upon approaching the fire, some nerves were evident, but an overall excitement was felt within the crew. While out on the line, the ladies performed extremely well and kept their focus on working as a team and taking lessons learnt home.
"Once we stood down and were driving away from the fire, there were just silent smiles from ear to ear. A sense of pride was felt throughout the entire group. These ladies are officially firefighters, and they did an outstanding job on their debut," says Kylie Paul, Team Juliet's superintendent.
Kylie, found her love for wildfire-fighting through joining the Volunteer Wildfire Services as a volunteer firefighter in 2017. "From my very first day as a volunteer I knew this is what I wanted to do professionally."
Last year, in a bid to increase feet on the ground for an ever-changing fire season in the Western Cape, NCC Environmental Services, in partnership with Chrysalis Academy, the Consulate General of the United States in Cape Town and the Department of Community Safety in the Western Cape, embarked on an exciting journey to uplift and empower fifteen women by training and employing them as wildland firefighters.
READ: More than 150 firefighters battling Noordhoek blaze in Cape Town
Charl Steenkamp, Brand Manager for NCC was on the scene this past Monday to snap some images of the crew tackling the blaze. Of the efforts, he said “I’ve been photographing Team Juliet from their first day at NCC Environmental Services. Seeing them on the fire line made me realise how much they’ve grown in confidence, not just in what they do, but also in front of the camera.
"They no longer shy away but are proud and confident in who they are and what they’ve accomplished. It’s a privilege to photograph these amazing women and see their journey unfold."
On Facebook, NCC Wildfires says, "Led by Kylie Paul, (who) got onto a fire line for the very first time, they undertook extensive mopping up on the fire line.
"Then all hell broke lose as fires in the Noordhoek wetlands advanced towards the residential areas and all resources were mobilised. The three helicopters with a spotter, City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services, WoF ground crews and 5 Volunteer Wildfire Services crews supported the @NCCWildfires crews and vehicles in containing the wildfire.
"NCC’s Juliet Wildfire Crew joined their fellow firefighters on the line to get some first hand experience of a wildfire. They performed exemplary and will take a lot away from what they learnt today.
"Thanks to the residents who supported all the crews with cold refreshments - the firefighters really appreciate it."
"It was extremely important that, while we recognised the significance of being the first all-female crew out on the line, we needed to focus on our assignment in the safest way possible. It was a humbling experience, which has brought me so much pride. These ladies are inspirational in every way, and I am truly blessed to be able to work with them," says Kylie.
Traditionally firefighting has been a male-dominated profession, but more opportunities are becoming available for inclusion, says Kylie. In the Western Cape in particular, there are already a number of women who have achieved successful careers in various roles in the fire industry.
"Our team’s goal is to pave the way to assist with integrating and creating more opportunities for women in this fantastic industry. At the end of the day we are all firefighters - gender plays no role on the fire line - but this is a start. I want every young girl to see us out there, getting stuck in, and know that they can do anything their hearts choose," Kylie adds.
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