Fireman Pat bids farewell after 48 years

Patrick Muir retired from the Milnerton fire department on Friday July 31 after 48 years of service.

Milnerton fire department’s station commander Patrick Muir has retired after 48 years of service.

Mr Muir, of Bothasig, spent his last day at the fire department in Koeberg Road on Friday July 31. The day before he celebrated his 65th birthday.

Mr Muir began his career as an apprentice repairing fire trucks and qualified as a petrol diesel mechanic. A day after his 21st birthday he was transferred to the Milnerton fire department on August 1, 1975.

Last Friday he received a fire-alarm bell mounted on a plaque as a parting gift for his decades of service. The engraving on the gold plate reads: “To an outstanding officer and true gentleman”.

Asked how many awards he’d accumulated over the years, he says: “There’s been a few.”

One of them was a long service award from the City of Cape Town in 2018 for 46 years of service.

“The last 15 years have flown by,” Mr Muir says, standing outside the fire department, behind him an open field with several rows of neatly parked fire rescue vehicles and fire engines gleaming in the sunlight.

Mr Muir’s father, Robert Bernard Muir, was also a firefighter and retired after 35 years of service as chief fire officer of the then Milnerton fire department in 1988.

His father joined the Cape Town fire department in 1953 and was stationed in Wynberg. In the early 1970s, he was given the task of starting the Milnerton fire department and the Muir family moved from Wetton to Milnerton.

Mr Muir points to the old family home across the road from the department.

Milnerton fire department opened on August 30 1973. Mr Muir was a national serviceman in Pretoria at the time and was flown down especially for the occasion.

He says the building itself hasn’t changed much but there have been add-ons like workshop rooms and a museum which displays, among other things, a 1934 fire engine – the first engine used at the Milnerton fire department.

The Muir family boasts three generations of firefighters. Mr Muir’s brother, Rodney, also followed in their father’s footsteps and was a senior fireman who specialised in fire safety. He died of cancer in 2000. Mr Muir’s son, Rodrick, is a hazmat technician at Bellville fire department.

“I learnt everything from my father. It was an ongoing mentorship. You can’t teach anyone experience. You pick it up from older hands,” he says.

Asked about special memories throughout the years Mr Muir says: “What’s a good memory to us is tragic incidents managed well. No one wants our service, but they happy to receive it.”

He recalls a few fires in the area over the years that have stood out for him such as a portion of the old Milnerton race course burning down in the late 70s and an explosion at Fedmis Plant where Makro is now.

Mr Muir has been instrumental in creating the specs for fire engines and fire rescue vehicles and says he will continue lending his expertise to the fire department after his retirement.

“You don’t just get up and walk away from it,” he says, but adds that his wife Karen’s support over the years has earned her some travelling once Covid-19 allows it.