MVFRA VISION - To Be The Leading Volunteer  Fire & Rescue Association in The Region


Honorary firefighters
The Star, October 9,

Pictures courtesy of MVFRA

The distress call comes in – urgent help is needed! The officer in charge immediately mobilises a team. They rush to their operations centre and put on their gear – a search and rescue operation is underway. These volunteers are members of the Malaysian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (MVFRA).  

The MVFRA is made up of private citizens who feel compelled to contribute time and effort in the event of a fire or disaster, as well as in fire prevention. One of the main movers behind the association is its founder and chairman, Volunteer Capt K. Balasupramaniam, who started it all back in with two other members of the Malaysian Fire & Rescue Cadet Corp.  


Capt K. Balasupramaniam is proud of his Firekids (also below).

Besides being in the thick of action when required, the people in MVFRA also undertake the more mundane but necessary tasks – education and prevention in the event of an emergency. Currently they are focusing on educating kids on fire prevention. 

The association has an active membership of more than 100 people (total membership is a lot more). The volunteers range in profession from teachers, doctors and technicians, to architects and interpreters, and they include both men and women, able and disabled individuals. The volunteers act as a back-up team for the Fire & Rescue Department (FRD). 

In , the association’s rescue efforts in the Bright Sparkles fire tragedy in Sungai Buloh earned them recognition from the FRD. A year later, MVFRA once again responded to a call for help during the Hill View Highland Towers tragedy which claimed more than 40 lives. In , the association was bestowed the National Youth Award. Capt Bala himself has been awarded the Loyal Service Award and the Director-General’s medal (the department’s highest award) by the FRD, as well as the Outstanding Young Malaysian Award. 

There are many more Malaysians trained in fire-fighting out there now, thanks to MVFRA.  

“We accept anyone who wants to serve the country through this association. You will be equipped with knowledge and skill that could one day be put into practice,” says Capt Bala, 31. Several MVFRA volunteers even served in Bam, Iran, following the massive earthquake there.  

“Our volunteers are basically ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Capt Bala says. He thinks of fire-and-rescue duty as a noble endeavour – more so when one does it without monetary incentives. “The training isn’t tough, and it is an on-going process. Even after 14 years in this line, I can’t call myself ‘qualified’,” he says. “Each situation that we face is unique and different.” 

There are several “categories” of volunteers in the association’s pool of volunteers, such as action volunteers (those who are well-trained and prepared to be called into action at anytime); professional volunteers (like doctors and geologists); and prevention volunteers (those that work in educational programmes, etc).  

“However these categories do overlap,” Capt Bala points out. The MVFRA has a communications officer in charge of its database and who handles call-ups in an emergency. Regular training takes place on Sunday for about two hours. The association has a few vehicles that it maintains by itself, including a boat bought with money the volunteers pooled together.  

When he’s not on volunteer duty, Capt Bala is a lecturer and consultant on mass evacuation and emergency occupational safety. He has advised government bodies, private corporations and facilities like airports on safety issues.  

“There is joy in helping people,” Capt Bala says. “If I can save just one life, that would be enough.” 

Help them help us 

THE saying, Prevention is better than cure, always hits home whenever there is a disastrous fire. Taking the message in the old saying to heart, the MVFRA is being pro-active by training children to be aware of the dangers of fire.  

So far they have trained 7,000 “Firekids”.   These are children who have undergone training via the association’s Firekids Club, which educates kids on fire prevention and safety. The programme ends with a glorious graduation – a ride in a fire engine! MVFRA has set a target of training 25,000 Firekids.  

The main challenge the association faces isn’t in getting the 70 volunteers required for each session – it’s getting the funds.  

“Each time we conduct one of these workshops it costs RM15,000,” says Capt Bala.  

“We have to raise all the funds for the association by ourselves, and we are run entirely by unpaid volunteers. It’s a challenge.”  

Apart from holding fundraisers, the MVFRA is also looking for sponsors for its programmes.  

“To fight a fire only when it happens is not just costly in terms of life and property loss, it’s also expensive in terms of mobilising people and resources. So it’s best to channel money and effort towards prevention. It’s cheaper and, more importantly, painless,” observes Capt Bala.  

The association believes in “starting them young” when it comes to instilling fire safety awareness – from as young as three, though most of the kids they reach out to are between five and 12. The programmes target both children and parents.  

“If you ask adults to attend a fire safety programme, chances are they wouldn’t do it. But when they accompany their children, they indirectly learn too. The kids can also educate their parents. We also find that children tend to learn better from ‘outsiders’ than from their parents.” 

“We have conducted surveys at kindergartens to observe children’s attention span. We want to ensure they have a great time and, at the same time, derive maximum educational benefits from our programmes,” Capt Bala explains.  

The sessions are therefore lively and incorporates elements of music, adventure as well as “special effects” (smoke machines, etc are used).  

To raise funds and achieve its target of training 25,000 Firekids, the MVFRA is currently selling 1,000 tickets at RM23 each for the charity première of the fire-fighting movie, Ladder 49. The screening (at Sunway Pyramid, Petaling Jaya) is for Oct 13 at 9pm.  

The fundraising event, which will be launched by Datuk Lee Lam Thye, begins at 7.45pm. There will be an exhibition on volunteer fire-fighters and a quiz on fire safety at 7.30pm (offering prizes like exclusive Ladder 49 posters and T-shirts). A total of 1,000 paper fireman’s hats will also be given away to kids. W 

  • For ticket enquiries or corporate sponsorship, call /012 or e-mail: . Delivery can be arranged for purchases of five tickets or more. More information about the association as well as lots of safety tips are at 

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