When the country paused to honour all the firefighters last week, retired firefighter and former Commissioner of the Fire Services, Asuao Taalili Williams, stood proudly among his peers.
At the age of 71, Asuao knows the struggles many of today’s firemen go through. As a firefighter, he believes the ability to work well under pressure, given the limited resources is priceless.
“It’s a career that I am always proud of,” said Asuao.
Asuao said the Fire Service deserves their special day because most of the work goes unnoticed.
He said everytime they receive a call, it’s always a matter of life and death.
“It’s a dangerous job, anything can happen,” he said. “It might be a plane, a boat or a big building. So you’ve just got to be prepared for the worst.”
While firefighters are trained, he said different incidents call for different responses.
“That’s why they are trained to be prepared all the time,” he said.
Looking back over the years, Asuao said the Samoa Fire Services have come a long way.
“There was only one fire truck that we had and that was supposed to cater for the whole country,” he said.
One of the biggest incidents that had occurred during their time was the post office incident and the warehouse on the wharf at Matautu that was on fire in 1983.
Asuao said there is a need for more fire fighters and they should be well trained. They also need overseas training so that they are familiar with other resources and equipments that Samoa doesn’t have.
The firefighters should also be on life insurance because the work they do is very dangerous and the community should work together with the Authority.
The biggest challenge that our Fire Service has is the limited resources that we have on hand. Asuao said more equipment is needed for the Authority, and more stations should be set up in different areas of Upolu and Savaii.
Asuao worked as a firefighter for the Auckland Fire Service from 1966 to 1975.
He then moved to the United States of America in 1975 and joined the U.S. Army until 1980.
In 1980 he returned to Samoa and was appointed as the Commissioner for Samoa Fire Services until 1989. He is married with 5 children.