174 years later since its establishment, Arlene Wehr has become the first woman firefighter to secure a position at the operations level in Cape Town’s fire service
She will be responsible for the following key fire stations which cover the Table Mountain range and industrial areas, which has unpredictable factory fires. They include Cape Town (Roeland Street), Sea Point, Salt River, Epping, Brooklyn, Hout Bay, Constantia and Wynberg, with the Cape Town train station, been crippled by numerous fires of train carriages were either set alight or struck by electrical faults.
Arlene, gave up her desk job in the private sector to pursue her passion for serving others and joined the Fire and Rescue Service in 1996.
“When I joined, I was one of the first females to do so. There were two others before me, and one had left by the time I joined. There were many challenges in what was then a male-dominated environment, but I managed to turn these into opportunities and I steadily worked my way through the ranks,” she said.
Being a mum who works as a firefighter was really challenging, especially on operational shift during her pregnancies.
“I used to keep my breast milk in the fridge. It was something new for the men, but they were supportive,” she said in an interview.
After becoming the first female station officer in the service in 2004, she became the first female divisional commander. She hopes her achievements would inspire other young women to join the institution.
Her work was recognized with a lifetime achiever award from the City for groundbreaking gender equality work, and being appointed to a two-year tenure as the vice-president of the South African Emergency Services Institute.
“It is not an easy job, but it can be fulfilling and Ms Wehr has proven that it can be a rewarding one on so many levels. She has written herself into the City’s history books, with humility and determination, unwittingly blazing a trail for others to follow,” applauded City’s Safety and Security mayoral committee member, JP Smith.