Yelennis, a Bayamese native with heart of fire

Yelennis, a Bayamese native with heart of fire
Fecha de publicación: 
19 September 2022
Imagen principal: 

I was impressed by this girl near the sea. A girl who — with a crystal-clear smile — joked with her workmates and her eyes filled with tears when she talked about men she did not know; she did not meet. But to whom she called with the same intimate words: “you cannot explain what the loss of a workmate feels like…”

They had just returned from the hot zone at the Matanzas Super Tanker Oil Depot Base. The fire that kept the city and the country in suspense for days had not yet been completely extinguished. They came exhausted, but filled with energy that they only knew where it came from. We approached to talk and the evening surprised us with so much youth, outstanding youth. She was not "the flower of the group": she "works like a man," said one of her workmates. "Or as a woman," I replied. "She does everything that we do as men. There is no difference. She is skinny, but she has enormous strength,” they said.  

The whole group was taking a course for Chiefs of Small Units and when they were told that they were going to relieve their colleagues, none of them hesitated. Now it is the girl who speaks on behalf of all: "we wanted to come here."

In Bayamo, the reaction was logically different: "When I told her, my mom didn't think I was coming to Matanzas. She calls me every five minutes, but when she went into the work area, I told her "well, mommy, I have to go…"

And even though her girl is not a rookie, mom is concerned and it is normal. Yelennis herself told us that while leading her tank truck — in Granma — she has faced “fires in brushwood, houses. But she had never faced a fire of such magnitude.”

In fact, she confesses: “the news got us by surprise as we never thought we would have to face such a huge catastrophe. When we saw the situation was getting worse, we wanted to come here. We thought about the missing firefighters…All these have been too shocking for us as we are a big family.”

From “excitement” to vocation

Yelennis Arévalo says she is afraid of nothing. She is not afraid of fire, nor heights. Anyone could tell she was born to be a firefighter, and that is likely a fact. However, she took just a few time to realize it. She came to this work “encouraged by a cousin. I used to see firefighters when I was a child but I never thought about it. I was with her as we were together all the time. But she left the School and I stayed. I fell completely in love with this world.”

During the holidays, a call for the National School of Firefighters was made. She was then 16 years old. She went to the Firefighters Unit where she works today, she did the medical check-up, the whole process, but thought she was not going to enter since by August 11, she had no answer at all. On August 12, she was notified that she had been chosen to enter the National School of Firefighters.

"The first days I was not so sure. But once I started going through the commandos and saw what firefighters really do, I fell in love with this profession in such a way that I would never want to leave here."

She graduated in February 2021 as a Certified Technician in Fire Protection. This training left her with several options: prevention, fire inspector or Tank Truck Commander. She made a quick choice: "I was more inclined towards fire extinction and when I got to my Command I told my Chief that what I wanted to be was Tank Truck Commander, he gave me the opportunity and I have been there for a year and five months now."

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CuabSí Translation Staff

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