Pat Muir, 61, has dedicated 45 years of his life to the City’s firefighting services, making him Cape Town’s longest-serving firefighter. He is the commander of fleet operations at the Milnerton Fire Station.
Firefighting is deeply ingrained in the Muir family DNA. Pat’s father, Robert, was in the service for 37 years, retiring as chief fire officer of the then Milnerton Fire Department in 1985.
His brother, Rodney, was a firefighter for 21 years, and Pat’s son, Rodrick, has just notched 15 years in the service.
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, commended Pat at a recent awards ceremony.
“It is easy to forget the sacrifices and contributions of our staff when we’re literally fighting fires and handling disasters and crime on a daily basis,” he said.
Pat joined the then Milnerton Municipality in 1972 as an apprentice petrol and diesel mechanic and, after qualifying in 1975, he was transferred to the fire department in 1976.
“I saw this as a challenging, adventurous, outdoor lifestyle and an opportunity to save the world,” he said.
For the past four-and-a-half decades, Pat has distinguished himself in the field, dealing with a wide variety of fires and emergencies – from helping to deliver a baby to being at someone’s side when they take their last breath.
“Our first priority is always to protect lives and then property. We try our utmost to prevent the spread of the fire and to minimise losses. The fear factor is always there and one often has to make split-second decisions, but a good firefighter knows to remain calm in an emergency and to allow common sense, training and experience to kick in.”
He remembers particularly hair-raising incidents and is especially haunted by traumatic cases involving children and the elderly.
“In our profession, happy endings are few, as our assistance is usually required in distress situations. However, our reward comes in the satisfaction of being able to help others in their hour of need.
“While basic firefighting techniques have stayed the same over the years, the technology and equipment have improved exponentially.
“This includes the use of thermal imaging cameras, compressed air foam systems, and modern nozzles, pumps and extrication and stabilising equipment.
“I can say with all honesty that I love what I do, and I love the people that I work with. No day is ever the same.
“If you want to get rich, then do something else, but if you want adventure and have a passion for helping others, then stay for the ride of your life,” he said.