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Local firefighter hangs up his boots

He told the Herald he struggled with some of the trauma he witnessed during the early days of his career.

After serving the Brakpan community for four decades, firefighter Molahuehi Jafta Malgas is looking forward to spending his golden years with his family and tending to his livestock.

Based at the Brakpan Fire Station for 40 years, the 65-year-old crew commander hung up his firefighting gear for the final time at the end of August.

A function to honour the long-serving and loyal first responder was held at the local fire station last Friday.
Known by some of his colleagues as Jafta, the Geluksdal resident first started his career in the ambulance division of emergency services.

“I was looking for a job and was asking around when I met a guy who sent me to the fire department and said they were looking for people. I came here and was hired,” he said.

It was only after the birth of democracy in South Africa that Malgas became a firefighter, something he had wanted to do since he first arrived at the station.

“I liked the job when I arrived here and wanted to pursue that dream,” he said.

Asked about a typical day in the life of a firefighter, Malgas recalled that when he lived in Daveyton he would usually awaken around 03:00.

“I would wake up, wash, get dressed and by 05:30 I would be at the train station to get here to Brakpan, where we started at 07:00. We worked 24 hours. You get to the fire station at 07:00, sleepover and knock off the following day,” he said.

He has previously been recognised for his commitment to his job and was the recipient of a long service award after having been at the station for 25 years. Malgas told the Herald he struggled with some of the trauma he witnessed during the early days of his career.

“I was not familiar with somebody who had been stabbed or struck by a car or involved in an accident. I struggled with that. Even eating after witnessing such things was very difficult. One incident I will never forget was violence between residents and people in the hostel in Tsakani. It happened in the 80s and was terrible,” he said.

Despite the horrors he has seen, Malgas explained the most difficult part of the job is physically fighting a fire.

“You must always be careful. You must wear a mask and full protective gear to protect you from the fire,” he said.

Questioned about whether he ever found himself in a situation on the job where he didn’t think he would make it out alive, Malgas is clearly confident in his abilities and those of his colleagues.

“We talk to each other. If we see someone is struggling, we help each other. We warn each other to watch out,” he said.

It is his colleagues that Malgas will miss most about the job once he has retired. Malgas also had some words of wisdom for firefighters just starting out in their careers.

“I always tell them they mustn’t hesitate. They must just commence their duties and follow the rules,” he said.

What’s for dinner? A Durban inspired dark lager lamb bunny chow

Malgas is not worried about becoming bored once he has retired. A family man, Malgas is married to Jacobeth (61) and the couple has three children, Ethel, Calvin and Zanele. Zanele had a twin, Zandile, who died.
They also have four grandchildren.

“I’m not retiring from myself, but from my work. I’m looking forward to spending time with the children,” he said.

“At home, I’m still going to be busy because I have cattle and I’m going to farm. I’m looking for goats, sheep and pigs.”

William Ntladi, district manager media liaison for Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services, described Malgas as legendary, adding he served the community with respect, passion and loyalty.

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