A group of engineers entered their firefighter certification training in Saudi Arabia on 19 December, and among their ranks were Abeer Aljabr and Jazyah Aldossary--the Kingdom's first female firefighters.
“These young engineers, including our female colleagues, are challenging themselves to be the very best,” said Ghassan Abulfaraj, Fire Protection Department (FrPD) manager. “By doing this, they are awakening the entire fire service community — challenging the status quo and raising the bar for all of us.
“I am also thrilled to witness this historic moment of having the Kingdom’s first certified female firefighters,” Abulfaraj added.
After participating in the training program, Aldossary said she was inspired by her father, who was a fire chief in the 1990s. “He was passionate about his job, and that passion was instilled in me from an early age,” said Aldossary. “Joining FrPD is a dream come true. My dad was very proud as the second generation of his family is continuing his legacy.”
Aljabr, her fellow engineering professional, said the experience was an eye-opener about the demands all firefighters must meet. “Walking a mile in their shoes allowed me to better understand what firefighters go through on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
“I’m proud to become a firefighter and be part of an organisation that gives equal opportunities,” Aljabr added. “I’m especially proud to be part of a department that believed in us and supported us as we went through the training.”
The changing paradigm is not limited to women in the workforce. FrPD engineers are fully engaged in the many arduous tasks that comprise hands-on firefighting. FrPD engineers are experiencing firsthand the practical application of physics, chemistry, fire dynamics, and the broad spectrum of sciences that govern fire behavior.
“Physically demanding and mentally challenging training is a critical component of our strategic plan. We must ensure our firefighters are skilled tacticians, our officers are talented leaders, and our engineers are gifted designers who understand the challenges of those they support,” said Abulfaraj.
The engineers are being trained at FrPD’s Advanced Fire Training Center in Ju’aymah, where real fires are deliberately set to emulate specific fire scenarios. The facility was designed to replicate real world conditions such as those present in a raging building fire or hydrocarbon processing unit.
To design the training course, the facility selected process equipment earmarked for the scrap yard from across Saudi Aramco operations, including a spheroid 15 metres in diameter salvaged from the old Qatif gas-oil separation plant 1, pressure vessels from Jiddah, Shedgum, and Yanbu’, and three 100-ton process columns from Abqaiq. Pumps, heat exchangers, compressors, and hundreds of valves that once served in operating plants were assembled in a specially designed fire resistant process unit.
Aljabr is an industrial engineering and engineering management graduate from the Univeristy of Sharjah, UAE, and Aldossary is a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Missouri in the US.