In the second of our Team of Many Talents blogs, we talk to Jimena at Awasi Atacama, who recently qualified as a firefighter having volunteered for training back in August 2019.

Jimena Choque: volunteer firefighter (and part of the culinary team in our Relais & Chateaux restaurant, Awasi Atacama)

So was this the culmination of a life-long, burning passion to become a firefighter? Not exactly. “A friend who was already a firefighter invited me to go along with her. When I signed up I had barely any idea of what I was getting myself into! I quickly discovered what it means to be a firefighter – the time, the effort, the sacrifice – a lot of hard work, but it is really worth it”.

So what is a day in the life of a firefighter in the Atacama? “Before 9am I report to the station to report my availability for the day. If I am free, I join the emergency team, and if anything is happening we head out. If there is nothing on we spend time at the base as a team, perhaps with a cup of tea, awaiting any alarms. On quiet days I’ll spend time cleaning the vehicles and equipment and training, before reporting at 8.30pm to discuss availability for night duty.”

Acquiring a variety of technical skills and working in a team, sometimes in high risk situations, has been a hugely rewarding experience for Jimena. “I’ve learnt a huge amount since I volunteered; commitment, discipline and teamwork, let alone the technical knowledge we are taught in each course. Because we are based in a frontier zone, our firefighting team specializes in almost all areas; fire, vehicle accidents, search and rescue, hazardous materials. We learn a bit about everything, but can choose the areas that we would like to specialise in.”

“But beyond that, we are taught how to react quickly in an emergency in such a fast-changing and dynamic environment. What has been great as well is to see how all the tasks that we do, all the contributions big and small from the team, complement each other in such a way. It has been a truly rewarding and inspiring experience in so many ways”.

We are proud to have a history of strong females at Awasi Atacama, our Relais & Chateaux lodge in Northern Chile. Did you see the video about the secret talent of Head Housekeeper, Isidora?