There is Only One Word: Heroes. Life as a Firefighter in Croatia.

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They are the heroes of Croatia. Exhausted, committed, relentless. Great article from leading Croatian portal on the firefighters of Croatia.

With disastrous fires that devastated Korčula and Pelješac this week, there’s been a lot of talk about whether we needed international help, whether we are prepared enough for such events, but one thing we didn’t talk enough about are the real life heroes that fought the blaze every single day – our firefighters. The public found a way to thank them through Facebook and through signs posted all over Croatia, but do we really know what conditions they are working in and for what pay? published a great story on them today and we would like to share it with you in full.

Heroes, not mercenaries

Our whole country breathed as one last week not only with the inhabitants of Korčula and Pelješac but also with the brave and selfless firefighters who fought tirelessly to save to save homes and everything else that was being mercilessly swallowed by the blaze including forests, olive groves, vineyards and animals.

Captain of the Orebić Volunteer Department Nikša Nogalo described what it feel like to go against human nature and run into imminent danger and not away from it, work without taking a break and to put your life on the line.

There can be no rest while we’re defending homes

One group of firefighters I am particularly proud of, worked on the first and second night for 24 hours straight, without a break. Some of them were transferred to Pelješac after fighting fires on Korčula which is truly an exhausting pace. I still don’t have all the stats but I can say that my guys went through grueling 24 hours. Our logistics and back up were immaculate; we had the support of the Red Cross, meals and beverages but it was tough. We are talking about extremely high temperatures; it’s hard to explain how a human being can endure such a physical test. We used full heat radiation protective gear and all I can say is that I am thrilled all my guys are alive and well. I am also proud of all the other people that were helping us and I am very pleased they were also unharmed; there was not a single burn among them. When you’re fighting these kinds of fires, you are standing just 5 metres away from the blaze. During such moments you have to be extremely well prepared both mentally and physically, unpreparedness is simply out of the question.

He passed on his 35 years of experience to younger generations and for some of them this was the first time they ever encountered such a difficult task so it was a fiery baptism in every sense of the term, one that they will remember for a long time.

Monthly wage of a seasonal firefighter is 3600 kn

They had no rest in the first 20 hours; they were defending houses, and to make things even more complicated, those houses are not built in a neat row.

“The houses we were defending are literally scattered all over the village so we were jumping from one house to another. There was no time to rest. It was either us or the fire. We couldn’t back down” he explained. People who volunteer as seasonal firefighters and expose themselves to danger receive 3600 kn per month. That is what they receive for exposing themselves to a blaze swallowing everything in sight. Though many wonder why anyone would agree to do this for such a low wage, here on Pelješac it makes sense to them.

They do it because they love and respect the tradition and it’s something that’s passed on from generation to generation

“It’s about tradition. Young people volunteer because of the love for the job. Their families have been doing it for generations so that is very hard to break because will and desire cannot be stopped. Nothing can prevent them from saving people and their homes” said the Captain. The youngest firefighter who defended Pelješac is 19 years old. Team members are between 19 and 60 years old and most of them are between 19 and 25.


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