By Karen Bong and Nancy Nais
KUCHING, June 20: In Part 1 of the ‘Female firefighters are real-life wonder women’ series, DayakDaily spoke to Penny Johnny Nauh from Tabuan Jaya fire station and Faliza Safri from Bau fire station on why they chose to become firefighters and what it is like to work in a male dominant environment.
In Part 2, we spoke to firefighter Josephine Pojen, who has been in the service for 12 years. She applied to join the academy straight after completing her STPM.
Married to a firefighter and a mother of two, she is currently attached to the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba)’s fire and safety division.
“I chose to be a firefighter because I am very interested in challenging work, like in other uniformed bodies such as the police force,” she said.
Because of her love and passion for this job, she does not consider challenges that come her way as difficult.
“I like the challenges, and it is easy to work with men. We have no problem working together,” she said.
“Moreover, I am proud I have the ability and capability to be in the force, which has only a small number of women, to assist the community in times of need.”
Speaking of her experiences in training, Josephine shared that it was tough for everyone, not only women; hence, all the more reason to persevere.
“We train at the same level as the men and were expected to do the same things. For many women, it feels like torture, but that is the purpose of the training — to build physical and mental strength and resilience because it is the most important requirement to be a firefighter,” she said as a matter-of-factly.
As for the physical demands that come with the job, she advised new recruits or those interested to come on board not worry or be stressed out about it because they could keep working on it through training and on the job.
“The rest will develop with experience and more training. Then we can also pursue professional development and go into special areas like handling hazardous materials, emergency medical rescue and other opportunities,” she added.
Being in a traditionally male-dominated occupation, Josephine emphasised that the most rewarding experience was seeing the surprised look on people’s faces whenever they spotted women in red.
“People are generally surprised to see women behind the mask and headgear. So, I am very proud of being on the force.
“It requires more than just passion to make firefighting a career. It takes perseverance, determination, high spirit as well as emotional intelligence to handle not only the challenges but also criticisms,” she highlighted.
Meanwhile, colleague Liddya Sapiee, 34, has been with Bomba since 2005. This mother of two is also an Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) personnel.
Bomba’s EMRS team was established as Special Force paramedics to rescue and conduct medical care on other special forces members in the event of complications.
However, EMRS can also rescue and give medical care to civilians while waiting for ambulances or paramedics from the Ministry of Health or Health Department.
All of Bomba’s EMRS personnel are trained paramedics, with cooperation from the Health Ministry.
Currently attached to the Bomba operation centre (PGO), Liddya said she chose to join Bomba because of her interest in joining a uniformed body.
“Back in secondary school, I often saw people with uniforms like firefighters, police and the army. I was very interested in it, so I applied to join. After I ‘graduated’ from the Fire and Rescue Academy Malaysia (FRAM), I knew it was the right path.
“No regrets, despite the rigorous training,” Liddya said.
After five years, she decided to join EMRS to learn and improve her skills in operations.
“I am very proud to be a firefighter and to be on the team that works together to serve the community,” she said.
DayakDaily was also given the opportunity to participate in Search and Rescue (SAR) training that was recently held at Mount Santubong.
Firefighters from Petra Jaya station, including those from the Special Tactical Operation and Rescue Team of Malaysia (STORM) and EMRS, took part in the training to rescue a ‘victim’ with back injuries and a broken leg. Josephine and Liddya were also in the thick of the action.
(Part 3 coming soon.)