“While There is Fire in the World” – Firefighters’ Day Celebrated in Russia


Georgiy Polunin, professor of Life Safety Department, candidate of engineering sciences and associate professor tells about the history of the celebration, the superstitions and the importance of fire protection.

– How long have you been working at SUSU?

– I’ve been working at SUSU since September of 2016. A year before that I retired, defended candidate’s dissertation, and after that continued my teaching career. Experience of such work has accumulated in the MES training center, in which I used to train managers of fire extinguishing and drivers of fire trucks.

– How did you find yourself in the profession?

– I am a regular officer, graduated from the Chelyabinsk Higher Military Automobile Engineering School. After graduation I got assigned to the Transcaucasian Military District. We were passing through troubled times. My family and friends, of course, were worried and weren’t happy about it. Back then my wife’s friend was teasing: “Why aren’t you a fireman?”, meaning that I wouldn’t have to go so far. We were laughing at her words, of course. In 1992 our military unit got laid off. After returning to Chelyabinsk, I thought “Why don’t I try myself in working in fire service?” That’s how my career at the MES began. Many years on, I haven’t regretted my choice once.

– The 30th of April is the Firefighters’ Day, what is your attitude toward the holiday?

– Originally Firefighters’ Day was celebrated on April 17, because on that day precisely Vladimir Ilyich Lenin signed the Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars “On the organization of governmental measures to combat fires”. This document played a great role in establishing and developing of fire service in a way that we are now proud of.

In March of 1999, the holiday had been moved because historians determined that the real date of establishment of state fire service in Russia is considered April 30 of 1649, when Gosudar of all Russia, Tsar and Grand Duke Alexey Mikhailovich issued the “The Order of the City Deanery”. According to the official order, a strict order was established in Russia for extinguishing fires. It was mostly enforced in Moscow. Later on, it got spread beyond.

I consider this holiday to be my second professional holiday. Me and my colleagues always celebrate it, remembering those who are not with us anymore, who died on duty.

– How did the fire-fighter system changed in the last few years?

Successful development of works on the creation of new highly effective fire extinguishing equipment and its implementation allows for re-equipping fire safety units of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia with the latest technology, increasing the fire protection of objects and various life support systems. At that, personnel training also changes. Nowadays young firefighters need to possess profound knowledge in the sphere of equipment and electronics.

In all circumstances people are of utmost value. And fire service is not an exception. The biggest value is every colleague who dedicates himself one hundred percent to performing his duties. In this structure it can’t be otherwise.

– How important fire safety is for people?

– While there is fire on Earth, this profession is going to remain to be required. Because there is a service that constantly protects civilian people from raging merciless flames. Some people tease saying that firemen sleep 25 hours a day. But I know that when taking duty, everyone from the fire team is ready to fulfill his professional duty till the end. And it means that in their profession there is always time for bravery. And it doesn’t matter if this brave deed is “local” or “global”. They are not just words on a job like this. Not everyone is ready to risk his life when his family is waiting for him at home.

It is wonderful if firefighters finished their shift without a fire response. It means that there were no emergency situations, nothing is on fire, everything is operating as usual. There is a reason that, when coming on duty, firemen wish each other to “keep your sleeves dry”, meaning a shift without emergencies.

– What superstitions do firefighters have?

– There is a superstition that if a black cat crosses the road before a fire truck, the fireman should turn his fire helmet backwards and drive like this till the next crossroad. There is also a superstition that you should not wash your head right after coming back from a call, otherwise you should expect a new call. And rookie firemen during their first fire response find themselves unexpectedly splashed with water. It is kind of initiation ceremony for the profession. There are many of such superstitions. Some firefighters make up their own special superstitions.

– Do you remember your first fire responce?

– Of course I do. I went to the first fire response with my students, a cottage was on fire. People had already been evacuated, and after having extinguished the fire we also had to cleanup the construction. That day I was unexpectedly splashed with water.

– I guess at your job it’s impossible to do without a sense of humor?

– Yes, you should always do your job with optimism. It is not unexpected that firemen, while on fire response, selflessly fulfill their duty. And after that, while returning to the fire department, or sitting in a fire truck, they defuse tension by saying something funny. Sometimes an accidentally told joke lives a long life and then, so to speak, “goes into masses”.

I congratulate all who dedicated themselves to fighting with fire!

Yekaterina Kuznetsova
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