Atlantic Initiative visited Sarajevo’s Professional Firefighter Brigade. We spoke with Brigade Commander Mahir Halilović about the Brigade’s current situation, its problems and future plans.
Text and photo: Safet ŠARIĆ
“The Professional Firefighter Brigade of the City of Sarajevo has a very long tradition. It was founded in 1883 for the purpose of extinguishing fires in the central part of the city. However, over time and as a result of the tremendous effort and dedication of its members, it became the only brigade in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) which covers the entire Canton,” explained Commander Mahir Halilović.
A Tradition of Quality
Halilović noted that the Professional Firefighter Brigade of the City of Sarajevo holds a Quality Certificate ISO 9001 – 2000, further confirming its professionalism and dedication. The brigade is attempting to maintain these high standards, as well as its good reputation.
One indicator that the Brigade members take their work seriously is the fact that it takes them only 45 seconds from the moment they receive a call to when a vehicle leaves the station. This turn-around time is much better than the European average. “From the moment they enter our premises,” stated Halilović “our staff treats every citizen in an utterly professional way. The same is true for citizens who call us on the phone.
Since the Brigade’s founding, its personnel have kept records about every intervention. They even continued working during the war. Many Brigade members received prestigious medals and honors as a result. “Every intervention has been documented and archived, so we can deliver written copies upon request,” Halilović said.
“In the future, we plan to help our citizens in every possible situation. Both the composition and staff of the Professional Firefighter Brigade are changing. However, our reputation and the quality of our services must remain at the same level,” Halilović said. He then added that “the Brigade stays out of politics and other spheres which are neither related to our work nor positively influence it. We have managed, without interference, to rise to the European level of efficiency in providing help when needed. In this way we believe that we have helped BiH fulfill some prerequisites for European integration.”
“Finances are currently our largest problem. Unfortunately, the Cantonal Government does not care much about our problems. Firefighting equipment should be updated every two years. Unfortunately, this does not occur in our case. This equipment is not produced serially, but rather upon order. Therefore, it is very expensive. The money used for purchasing equipment has usually come from various donations,” Halilović explained.
In his opinion, the announced incorporation of the Professional Firefighter Brigade within the Civil Protection unit of the Sarajevo Canton will solve the problem of lack of equipment. The existing equipment could then be donated to voluntary firefighting associations which often assist the Professional Brigade in extinguishing fires and various other rescue operations.
Halilović emphasized the importance of the equipment used by the Brigade. “We are trying to develop new techniques for more effective rescue of individuals and property using the equipment we already have. We are constantly considering new possibilities and options for the enhancement of our equipment. Through various magazine subscriptions and the internet, we are learning about new developments and trying to keep up with the rest of the world. This will allow us to offer our citizens the best possible protection and minimize the risks which firefighters may be exposed to.”