Putting out blazes, and educating people about fire hazards, is the work of I Gusti Putu Gede Darmawan, a firefighter of 34 years at a fire station on Jl. Imam Bonjol in Denpasar. The 54-year-old father of two shared his day with The Bali Times’ Arga Sagitarini. I go jogging at 6am, shortly after getting up. It’s important to keep yourself in shape, so you’re healthy and have stamina, something firemen need a lot of. I get to the fire station at 7:15; it’s not so far from home.

I’ve been a fireman since I was 20, when I had just finished high school. A lot of firefighters were required back then and I wanted to be one. I didn’t want to keep on studying; I just wanted to start earning money and have a family.

I like fire. I’m not scared of it. I love fighting fires, and the worst thing is when a fire is already out by the time we arrive at the location. Going out to fight fires is like going on an adventure, and I get a rush when we get a call to put out a raging fire. Battling blazes is also about life and death and you have to do your best to help those at the scene. You can’t be afraid for even an instant. We’re there to help people, not the other way around. If I ever lost faith in what I was doing, or if I became frightened of the flames, I’d be better off staying at home. Thankfully that’s never happened, and I hope it never will.

These days there are more fires than ever in Bali. When I look back on my early days as a fireman, there were only a few fires. Now there are a lot. Back then I was much more relaxed, as there was less work to do, and I even managed to go to night school and get a degree in sociology, because I thought that having a degree would help me get promoted.

But now there are fires all over the place – at markets, supermarkets, government buildings, hotels and others. During the first Bali bombing, I remember there were so many people lying on the ground, and at first I thought they were construction workers, because at the time there were a lot of buildings being built in the area (Legian). I remember trying to get them go get up, and said things to them like, “Excuse me, sir, we (the firemen) need to pass through here, so can you please move?” When no one moved, I knew they were dead.

The fire at Kumbasari Market (in Denpasar, in early May) was very strong and a friend and I who were holding a hose had it set to maximum but it was so powerful that we both fell from our position high up in the market building. It’s a miracle that we only slightly injured and are still alive. I really thank the Gods for that. After I was treated by a doctor, I went back to the scene again to have a look, as it’s my responsibility to make sure that everything was under control.

My working day is supposed to end at 3:30 in the afternoon, but of course, as firefighters, we’re really on duty 24 hours a day. When I’m not at the station, I have my radio with me in case I’m needed. It’s all part of the job. Even when I hear about accidents, I’ll go to the location to see what’s happened.

In the evenings, I like to have dinner with the family and relax. And then at night I go out and chat with friends to see what’s going on – I don’t stay up chatting all night, though, because I need to be in bed by 11 so that I’m up and fresh early the next morning.

Filed under: One Day

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