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Elite Pioneer Firefighter Award

Rachel Martin (43) of the Midrand Fire Station has never shied away from a challenge. Martin’s sheer tenacity was rewarded recently when she returned home with a top prize after a rigorous 12-week training course.

The course was attended by an elite team of public safety professionals from across Gauteng, including Tony Stacey (Crew Commander), Chris Morris (Advanced Life Support – Gauteng Provincial Government) and Morné Mommsen (Midvaal Emergency Services), as well as Mervyn van Ginkel. (Tshwane Emergency Services). Martin was the only woman enrolled in the advanced training course among the leading team of EMS technicians.

Focused on the handling of rescue dogs, the crash course was presented by the Genesis K9 Group, a canine facility that offers K9 handling training, as well as the leasing and sale of trained apprehension, detection, tracking and patrol dogs.

She says course attendees are grateful to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Provincial Disaster Management Center (PDMC), Genesis K9 Group, and retired K9 instructor and former police captain, Paul Rheeder. , which specializes in search and rescue dogs, for their input in the training program.

Martin attended a dog handler course for the first time in 2009, which involved training K9s in wilderness search and rescue as well as searching in disaster sites. The JMPD provided him with a dog named Hope for that course, who was a cross between a Belgian Shepherd and a German Shepherd. The two became inseparable. “Dogs have a better sense of smell and I love the fact that they can find missing people much faster. I love helping people,” he says.

When asked why she chose to become a firefighter and dog handler, Martin replies with a smile, “I love animals and being in the fire department and rescue team, saving people’s lives.”

Martin, who has traveled extensively, is from Barberton, Mpumalanga. She completed a first aid course when she was in the eighth grade and grew up watching Rescue 911. “Whenever there’s an emergency, I take charge. Every call is unique, so you have to think outside the box. I love a challenge. I always I know I love medicine,” he explains.

Martin’s parents exposed her and her siblings to adventure and diverse communities from an early age. “We were not a rich family, but our parents taught us to appreciate the little things. On Sundays, our house was always open for everyone who wanted to eat with us.”

Martin describes herself as adventurous, always up for a challenge and not afraid to go the extra mile and do the work required.

Due to his compassionate nature, Martin notes that a career in emergency management was inevitable. She started in the ambulance services sector after completing a basic training course in 2000. She subsequently completed a firefighting course at Brixton College in 2006, and the following year she began volunteering at the Brixton Fire Station. Berea. As of August 2007, she was permanently employed at the Rosebank Fire Station.

Martin is one of the few female members of the South African Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) technical team, classified by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) in 2017 as a medium-sized rescue team. In 2021, the need to increase the search capability of the USAR SA team from a medium to a heavy response team was identified, and the missing component to reclassify was the addition of K9 Technicians to the squad. That was how she got involved.

“We want to get accreditation in 2024 as a heavy rescue team with the UN. We are already qualified as a medium-sized rescue team, but a heavy-duty rescue team requires dogs to search for living patients,” he explains.

As one of the few women in a field dominated by men, Martin would love to see more women working as firefighters and dog sitters. “I would love for more women to join us, and I am willing to help whoever needs help. We have a lot to offer. We can do anything we want to achieve as women. It’s not always the easiest thing to be a woman because you constantly have to prove yourself.” yourself. We can do anything if we put our hearts into it,” he believes.

Despite her busy schedule as a firefighter and dog trainer, Martin finds time for charity work. She was part of Team Zodwa that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2009 to raise awareness of abused women and children. She runs a Florida youth cadet program at West Rand, exposing them to various careers, team building, first aid training, and firefighting.

“I want to empower as many people as possible.”

Martin will not rest on his laurels. Her future aspirations include studying whitewater rescue and becoming a scuba diver, as well as learning more about the psychology of canines.

Written by Brümilda Swartbooi

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