“Firefighting is like a hobby to me”

October 15, 2019

03 Firefighting is like a hobby to me

Meet SGT1 (V) Jeffrey Tan, a volunteer firefighter in the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) who holds three portfolios in his career. Besides being a Senior Healthcare Executive at the Healthcare Support Services and an Assistant Operations Manager at Certis CISCO, Jeffrey is also a Discipline Master at the Republic Polytechnic.

Since 2006, Jeffrey has volunteered to serve in the CDAU. For a decade, he volunteered as a medic in the SCDF Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team before volunteering to be a firefighter in 2016. Jeffrey not only joined the CDAU to fight fire locally, but he had also gone for overseas disaster missions as a volunteer.

“Firefighting is like a hobby to me,” said Jeffrey. “I like to visit the local fire stations and volunteer my time as a firefighter. When I travel abroad, I would never fail to visit the country’s main fire station so as to learn more about their culture, the equipment they use, and their firefighting strategies.”

Jeffrey has visited fire stations in several countries namely: America, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia. Jeffrey said that he finds his calling as a CDAU volunteer meaningful for it allows him to make constructive use of his spare time. Jeffery added that he responds to emergency incidents as a community first responder round the clock even when not on official duty as a CDAU volunteer.

“There was an incident many years ago,” said Jeffrey, as he recalled a memorable incident he had encountered. “I was having lunch at Holland Village when suddenly, there was a loud bang behind me. Turning back, I saw an overturned car at a nearby junction. Immediately, I rushed to the scene and realized that there were people trapped inside the vehicle. There was even smoke coming out from the bonnet but as much as I tried, I could not open the car doors. As it was a hatchback, I managed to climb into the car through its rear and medically assessed the victims. After ensuring that none of them had spinal injuries, I brought them out of the car one by one.”

Some motorists and bystanders helped to direct the traffic and guided the victims to the side of the road. Ambulance was called but fortunately, no one was badly injured.

“Days after the incident, I was in Hawaii when I received a call from SCDF informing me that the victims of the car accident would like to thank me in person. So, an arrangement was made for me to meet them,” said Jeffrey.

It was indeed a proud moment for Jeffrey.

On 19 June this year, what seemed like a regular day at the fire station for Jeffery was abruptly interrupted when he and his team were activated to a shop house fire at Geylang Lorong 14. Within a minute, Jeffrey sprang into action, grabbing his gear as he set off with the rest of the SCDF emergency responders in the fire engines.

“Once your engine is on turn out, you and fellow crew must leave the fire station within a minute upon activation. Even if you are in the shower, you just have to grab your gear and sprint to the fire engine, as an emergency call of distress waits for no man. In the fire engine while en route to the incident site, you don your firefighting gear as fast as you can before arriving at the fire scene. Believe me, this is truly an adrenaline pumping moment for a volunteer like me,” said Jeffrey.

When Jeffrey and his team arrived at the fire scene, the raging fire had already burnt through the roof of the shop house. Wasting no time, the water jets were set up within seconds. Each team of firefighters penetrated into the burning shop house through various access points, including windows, to put out the fire.

“With great teamwork and concerted efforts, the fire was well contained and did not spread to stakes of rubber tyres nearby for otherwise, that would have been disastrous. You see, rubber tyres are highly combustible, generating thick volumes of acrid black smoke and very tough to extinguish,” said Jeffery. “If that were to happen, more resources would be required, and more time would be taken to fully put out the fire.”

Jeffrey said that having to don layers of firefighting gears including the heavy breathing apparatus set and carrying heavy equipment throughout the operation was the most challenging part of firefighting. “To become a firefighter, you need to consistently build your physical and mental fitness to sustain your stamina for the fire-rescue missions as you never know when is your call to the next major incident. As always, I am all ready for the next fire call for firefighting is like a hobby to me,” added Jeffrey.