How To Train A Volunteer Firefighter

Busting down doors, fighting off flames and rescuing victims from a wrecked car. Potential volunteer firefighters were put through these adrenaline-pumping scenarios as they learn to perform life-saving acts. Challenge trails 11 trainees through a 16-week Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit volunteer firefighting course that prepares them to be volunteer firefighters with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
Held thrice weekly, the course includes theory and practical lessons on firefighting skills and rescue techniques. Graduates will be deployed to fire stations and serve for at least 16 hours a month. Trainees come from all walks of life, from tertiary students to working professionals.
Besides handling firefighting appliances and equipment such as breathing apparatus cylinders or fire hoses and nozzles, trainees undergo heat and humidity tests and learn basic first aid skills, including CPR.
Safety is an essential part of the training – trainees do a thorough check of their firefighting and rescue equipment before every practical session.
During Challenge's visit, the trainees had already completed 15 weeks of training and were getting ready for their final firefighting exercise. A course instructor recaps the skills they learnt before the final session.
Trainees prepare to enter The Furnace, a building that can simulate 14 types of fire settings for different spaces, from residential flat units and corridors to cafes, bars and warehouse storage spaces.
Trainee SCDF volunteer firefighter don up to 20kg worth of protective gear including a helmet, two-piece firefighting suit, fire boots, gloves and breathing apparatus.

Each trainee has to don up to 20kg worth of protective gear including a helmet, two-piece firefighting suit, fire boots, gloves and breathing apparatus.


A kitchen fire blazes in this simulation. Trainees have to act fast to put out the flames and rescue casualties, just like how firefighters will need to react in real scenarios.


Transporting the casualty (represented by a 75kg manikin) safely down the narrow stairwell is a physically demanding feat. Trainees also have to endure the heat within the thick fire-retardant suit.

Trainees also learn how to rescue casualties from road traffic accidents using the correct tools and techniques. 
Prying open a locked car door requires the trainees to apply their knowledge, pay attention to details and support one another as a team.
The trainees successfully rescue a casualty from the crashed vehicle. They also learn how to conduct rescue operations for victims trapped underground and in high-rise buildings.
Trainees get the opportunity to practise with defunct vehicles for realistic training on road traffic accident scenarios. They coordinate efforts to dismantle the car body.

Graphic designer Joelle Enver (third from right) says: "There are times when I ask myself, 'Why am I doing this?' But at the end of the day, the sense of fulfilment, of accomplishing [each mission] keeps me coming back."

She adds: "It's nice to make new friends... we look out for one another and [form our] own support team."

James Mansfield-Page (right) sees this as a chance to realise his childhood dream. "I wanted to be a firefighter when I was a kid," says the recruiter. "To put our training into practice is going to be another challenge as every scenario is different. Iʼm looking forward to proving that the training Iʼve gone through is not for nothing."

This is the third in a series of stories celebrating 150 years of civil defence volunteerism in Singapore.

Keen to volunteer as a firefighter? Find out more:

    Nov 11, 2019
    Tay Qiao Wei
    Norman Ng
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