Written by Urška Dimnik.
Slovenia is small, but special. If you’ve ever been here before, you already know this, and if you’re yet to come, this discovery still awaits you. It it not only the nature and the history that are special. The people are special too. And the firefighters are special. And it is to them that I want to dedicate this article.
Firefighting in Slovenia has been organized for over 140 years, and the profession was established in Ljubljana in 1922. The history of fire control in the area of today’s Ljubljana is, in fact, much longer. The Romans living in Emona already had organized fire safety, as they were aware of the fact that misfortune never rests and it is wise to be well prepared for it.
Did you know that firefighters are our largest volunteer organization? It has approximately 150,000 members. 150,000 of almost completely regular people who are always ready to help a fellow human being in need. Considering the natural natural disasters we have witnessed in the last decade (there aren’t many natural fires in Slovenia, but we do have many issues with water - floods and avalanches), firefighters are more than welcome, as they are connected in critical situations by inclusion, unity and team spirit. The organization’s development through many years of tradition has created social relations and a sense of belonging, respect, usefulness. This sense of belonging is further developed through group drills, competitions and work with young people.
The word “volunteer” comes from the latin “voluntarius,” and it means choice, free will, willingness. This is the word we use to describe all individuals who offer their time, energy, knowledge and skills, as well as their good will to the benefit of their environment. They are not paid for this and this is why their help is truly appreciated. They have no political motivations, but they just really want to help, which is a well appreciated rarity nowadays. And this is exactly why volunteer firefighters were declared to be the persons of the year in 2014.
Slovenia does, of course, also have professional firefighters, who work at the fire brigade. However, volunteers receive new obligations every year and are entrusted with an ever-growing responsibility. They take demanding courses and are always called to action by their professional counterparts in all larger fires and other accidents. It is important to note that the volunteers are not competition for the professionals, but rather complement them, as the professional assistance does not always reach all people and all human needs and problems, due to it being too expensive. The people who opt for volunteer work do also obtain an abstract social recognition and status, which may not be directly cash refundable, but it is something that can help us sleep easily at night and make us pleased with ourselves. That is something, after all, isn’t it?