Her name is Baigum Abrahams; she is a mother of one and she may very well be a real-life Superhero. The 23 year-old firefighting “newbie” from Strandfontein has been named the “Toughest Firefighter Alive” at the 2018 firefighting competition that took place at Roeland Street Fire Station from 10-11 August 2018.
Baigum says her passion for firefighting was ignited in a very unlikely situation. Both her and her son had taken ill and she had dozed off while forgetting a pot of oil on the stove. She says “I woke up to the crackling sound of the fire and immediately called Fire Control on 021 590 1900”, where Mitchell’s Plain Fire Station responded to the call. Their quick response and how easily they ensured the safety of her and her child by getting the situation under control, was what genuinely sparked her interest in the world of firefighting. All fired-up, she began job shadowing at Ottery Firestation, spent a year as a Seasonal Firefighter and then went on to apply for a permanent post. She enrolled in the Epping Fire and Rescue Training Academy, blazing through her training to graduate tops and receive the “Best Overall Student” award now in 2018.
The competition is not for the faint-hearted as it consists of many stages that put participants strength and ability to the ultimate test. The stages basically simulate what a firefighter goes through on a daily basis. The tasks range from obstacle courses that test the ability of a participant to carry a heavy water pipe and chopping solid wood on the Kaiser Machine—which simulates a firefighter being able to chop through doors and other objects with an axe—to running through a tunnel with a 25l foam drum, scaling a 4 metre wall and finally running up 23 flights of stairs in the Civic Centre—to mention a few! Braving all this and more, Baigum won, being awarded “Toughest Female Firefighter”; 2 Gold medals for relay and a certificate of being a “Super Woman”. What makes Baigum such an inferno is the fact that she only trained for a week in preparation for the competition and has only been stationed at Mitchell’s Plain Fire Station for 13 days. If that is not worthy of “Superhero” status, what is?
Not one to take all the shine, Baigum credits the “City of Cape Town and the people of Strandfontein” who she says raised her and played a big part in how she has grown. Baigum’s mother, Jasmino Rawood has always supported her and believes in her abilities all the way saying that, “Baigum is a very happy child…and she loves helping people” which is the much-needed spirit and attitude of a firefighter.
When asked about her experiences as woman firefighter in a “supposedly” male-dominated world during a radio interview, Baigum says she feels no need to prove herself, saying that “more and more females” have entered the firefighting profession over the years. She adds that in her platoon at Mitchell’s Plain Fire Station, “There are 4 women and we all do what we need to do and we always get the job done!”.
For her, seeing how proud her son and colleagues were of her, made winning even sweeter. She says it felt great for the Cape Town team of firefighters she formed part of to win, because they wanted to scorch their opponents and remain undefeated on their own turf!
Baigum says that it is important to teach children from a young age that lighters and matches are not toys; to be cautious of flammable packaging and to ensure that plug sockets are not overloaded as this can lead to a fire. From her own experience, she knows how quickly a fire can start and rage uncontrollably, so preventative measures are very important.
So from nearly burning her house down, to being stationed at the very station that extinguished her house fire but ignited her firefighting-flame, Baigum Abrahams is well on her way to becoming a forced to be reckoned with. She says she has much to learn and her mentors at Mitchell’s Plain Fire Station are grooming her to become the best that she can be, with the help of their skills and knowledge that cannot be “taught in a textbook or manual.” Wherever life takes this fiery spirit, we know that Baigum will be out there being the best firefighter that she can be and making a difference in the lives of others!