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Fire Chief extinguishes his career after a fiery 43 years

Last updated on December 1, 2022

A few weeks shy of 43 years in the City of Cape Town’s Fire & Rescue Service, Chief Fire Officer Ian Schnetler has retired. He reflects on a career which started in December 1979 as a rookie, only a few days after writing his final Matric exam.


Rookie firefighter, Ian Schnetler, was deployed to Roeland Street Fire Station and attend to his first big fire on New Year’s Eve in 1979 – a double storey dwelling in Tamboerskloof.


Schnetler served at a number of fire stations, before being promoted to Fire Officer in January 1985 – at the time the youngest ranking officer in the service.



‘Firefighting is a calling and it was my motivation for remaining in the profession for more than four decades. The different emergencies and challenges inspired me to continue to develop ways of helping and enabling staff to overcome them.


‘The love of actual firefighting, and the opportunities taken to “put the wet stuff on the hot stuff” and beat the beast, will always remain with me,’ said Schnetler.


Even when his title changed in 1990 to Chief Fire Officer where he had to put out administrative fires, he missed being on the ground.



‘With the training that you receive and the experience you build up over time, firefighting is much simpler, easier, more exciting and fun to do than sitting behind a desk. If and when an opportunity arises, I try and get involved with actual firefighting just to once again experience the feeling of being an operational firefighter,’ he said.


One of the highlights of his career is ‘the privilege of managing one of the proudest and best fire services in the country’.


‘This can only be credited to the diligent and hard work of the team of firefighters, administrative staff and senior management who make it possible. Without them we may not have been in the same position we are now,’ added CFO Schnetler.

Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith, lauded Schnetler’s contribution to building Cape Town’s Fire Service.


‘Firefighters run into danger and there is no doubt that it is a calling. CFO Schnetler comes from a family of uniform personnel and he has continued the proud and noble tradition of serving the city. He has stayed true to his calling, has shown courage under literal fire and has done the hard yards. His time in bunker gear may be over, but his time in the service will always be remembered. We wish him well on this next part of his journey,’ said Alderman Smith.



Source: City Of Cape Town

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