When I’m big I want to be a firewoman!
VIC OLIVER recently spent a morning with Tracey Lee Visser, the station commander at Kibler Park Fire Station, discovering what motivates this determined woman, who loves her job and working with her team of firefighters in a male-dominated industry.
Just after we arrived at the fire station, an emergency call came in to report a thatch roof on fire at a residential home in the district. It was impressive to see the quick response from Visser, who immediately jumped up and ran out of her office to assist and supervise the dispatch of her team and their vehicle.
We heard her shouting instructions and motivating the all-male team of firefighters to get ready and race to the fire as quickly as possible. It was only a few minutes before the fire engine and team departed. The commands that were issued by Visser to get the equipment and the team on the road were loud and firm, yet communicated in a friendly manner.
Visser says her motivation to choose a career in emergency care stemmed from her school days when she became involved in First Aid classes and found she had a passion for taking care of others. She later joined the Red Cross, which reinforced this commitment to caring for others in strife. After she matriculated at Sir John Adamson High, she studied emergency care at the Witwatersrand Technical College.
In November 1998, whilst still studying, Visser joined the Turffontein Fire Station. A month later she completed her studies and received her National Diploma in Emergency Care. She was then transferred to the Brixton Fire Station, where she worked as a paramedic providing life support to any person in need of care at the scene of a fire or emergency situation, including the firefighters themselves.
She then moved to the Roodepoort training academy where she lectured on emergency care. Visser received her first appointment as a fire station commander at the Rietvlei Fire Station where she worked for two years before taking up her present position at Kibler Park.
One of the requirements of the job is to be able to drive the fire engines. This necessitates a Heavy Duty EC driving licence and Professional Driving Permit, which she successfully obtained. Visser says she does not drive the vehicle often but can if necessary.
Visser’s job entails many different functions including the daily inspection of her team and their equipment. Her vehicles are also inspected and the engines started on a daily basis to ensure they are kept in pristine condition and ready at all times to respond to an emergency with minimal delay.
Being married with two children, Visser says the most challenging aspect of her job is to find the correct balance between being a mother and a station commander. “Some of the accident scenes can be emotionally disturbing. However I have a great team and we help each other to overcome the difficulties of the job,” she tells FOCUS.
One of the best parts of the job for Visser is dealing with her team and other people with whom she comes into contact. “I also enjoy the excitement that comes with the profession and the fact that every day is different,” she comments. Visser intends being in the job for the long haul; once her two children are a little older and less in need of her motherly care, she would like to advance to the next step in her career and become a divisional fire chief. Given her determination and dedication, we have absolutely no doubt that she will achieve her dream!
One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 45 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.