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I’m A Firefighter Who Knows Sign Language. Here’s My Journey Of How I Become One

A true hero.

Exclusive Story by WeirdKaya – Reproduction requires proper crediting and backlink to us. Kindly acknowledge the efforts of our editors in sourcing and conducting interviews.

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In a world where heroes are often born from the most unexpected backgrounds, Abidul Hazman’s story is one that resonates deeply with the idea that ordinary individuals can perform extraordinary feats.

At the age of 33, Hazman made a name for himself as a firefighter, but his journey to becoming a hero began in a rather unlikely way.

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Lost father to heart attack

Born to a prison warden in Penang, Hazman largely spent his childhood years in Johor, where he recalls it as a time of bliss and innocence.

Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter
Provided to Weirdkaya

As for his schooling days, Hazman said he was the “unpopular kid”, no thanks to his role as head prefect – a stark contrast to his current career as a firefighter.

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When asked what was the most defining moment in his career as a firefighter, Hazman quickly answered in a heartbeat.

When my dad passed, it was one of the worst things to happen. I watched him suffer from a heart attack in the hospital and I knew deep in my heart, I had the knowledge to perform CPR.

“However, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it,” he lamented.

Took up several jobs

Hazman’s journey to becoming a firefighter first began when he finished his studies in college. However, he didn’t dive straight into the firefighting world but instead got his first job as an electronic technician.

Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter on duty
Provided to WeirdKaya

“Right after I finished my SPM, I got accepted into the Japan Malaysia Technical Institute (JMTI). At that time, I was just 20 years old and unsure about navigating through the job market, where firefighting wasn’t yet on my radar.

“My salary was sufficient at the time, which provided me with a comfortable start to working life,” he recalls.

Over time however, Hazman realised that he needed a change after the long working hours and insufficient overtime pay took its toll, prompting him to resign.

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Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter
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Single and now free to explore his options, Hazman was determined to find a fulfilling career but quickly found that the job hunting process wasn’t as simple as he initially thought.

“My job hunting took me from Penang to Kedah before I finally came to Serdang, Selangor. Out of the hundreds job applications I submitted, I only received six interview invitations.

“It was a challenging period that made me acutely aware of the difficulties in securing stable employment,” he said.

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Eventually, Hazman secured a job as a security guard, which offered a comfortable income – a slight increase from his previous technician job.

Outside of his expertise

But Hazman’s career journey didn’t stop right there, where he later landed a job as a chemical specialist at a factory’s water treatment department.

Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter for press and meeting
Provided to WeirdKaya

Recalling on this particular incident, Hazman couldn’t help but to laugh over its irony.

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Do you know how hard it was for me to learn something that I had no knowledge of?

“Despite that, I was still determined to do the job well and approached one of the supervisors to seek guidance. Instead of giving me all the answers, he told me to see how many chemicals were in the factory, obtain 1 litre of each chemical and mix and blend it all together.

“From there, I learned about pH checks and the intricacies of handling chemicals. Within two months, I earned the title of a chemical specialist,” he said

Becoming a firefighter

One day, Hazman received a surprising letter requesting him to come for an interview with the JPA (Public Service Department Malaysia) to work as a fireman.

Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter
Provided to WeirdKaya

The salary offered was considerably low, a significant drop from his current income as a chemical specialist (not inclusive of overtime pay).

“I sought advice from my mother as I knew how important it was for me to get her blessing for such decisions. She encouraged me to go for it as there were many advantages working for the government.

“However, I didn’t have time to prepare my CV or get dressed in the interview attire and simply went for the interview as I was.

“Surprisingly, the interview went exceptionally well, and I was offered an opportunity to work as a firefighter,” he said.

After settling into his new career, Hazman joined the Special Tactical Operation and Rescue Team of Malaysia (STORM) at the encouragement of his colleagues, where he underwent grueling trainings.

One of the rigorous tests I faced was the BA endurance test, which required me to carry a heavy load in under 11 minutes.

“I completed the BA endurance task in 16 minutes and was gasping for breath when it was over. However, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance and jumped at the chance to do it again.

“On my second attempt, I finished it within 10 minutes, securing my way into the STORM unit,” he said proudly.

Dealing with onsite trauma

Unlike the glamour that’s usually presented on TV about firefighters, Hazman said that being a firefighter has its own emotional toll, some of which have left a lasting impression on him.

Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter - demonstration
Provided to WeirdKaya

One of them was a time where he was tasked with spending the night with his team with a corpse on a remote hill.

“It was a lonely and somber job, but with time I got used to it.

“Another would be when I had to pick up a human brain from the road after responding to an accident. This is something very normal for firefighters to encounter, especially back then” he said.

Hazman also revealed the grim reality that firefighters often have to confront when at the scene of a fire, where he described the bodies of those who perished in the inferno as “having skin akin to grilled fish”

Picking up sign language

Hazman’s dedication to his role as a firefighter goes beyond the call of duty, where he has taken upon himself to learn sign language in order to communicate with deaf victims.

As for the event that led him to acquire this new skill and become the topic which made one of his TikTok videos go viral, this was what happened:

“My team had just arrived at the scene of a fire when we found that the flames had already been extinguished. We later found that the victim was a disabled person who was deaf.

“This presented a unique set of challenges as the team and I wondered how to effectively communicate and gather information from the victim.

“At that moment, we realised that we weren’t fully prepared nor had the knowledge to communicate with deaf victims, thus, led to lack of communication” he recounted.

Hazman added that there was another encounter that spurred him to learn sign language was when he grew frustrated with a Grab rider whom he though was ignoring him. However, he later realised that the rider was deaf and had a hard time understanding him.

Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter
Provided to WeirdKaya

Determined to master sign language, Hazman turned to schools in Ipoh but was unable to find any sign language textbooks available for purchase.

Despite his fluency in multiple languages, Hazman was baffled by the difficulty of learning sign language.

I can learn and speak Japanese, English, Bangladesh and Hindi easily but was puzzled by how I couldn’t so the same with sign language.

Thankfully, this led him to cross paths with the Special Education School in Ipoh, a man named Zaki, who agreed to lend him a sign language module with the condition that he would return it when he was done with it.

For the next two years, Hazman began his journey in learning sign language and utilised online resources such as YouTube and TikTok. He even engaged with deaf individuals on TikTok, using basic sign language to communicate with them.

Hazman later sheepishly admitted that he has yet to return the module back to Zaki, adding that it has become his primary reference in learning sign language.

Helping the deaf community

Despite the similarities between the Malaysian sign language and American Sign Language (ASL), Hazman discovered that some deaf individuals struggle with social interactions.

Abidul hazman - malaysian firefighter demonstration with colleagues
Provided to WeirdKaya

He recalled receiving calls from deaf individuals who would ask questions considered inappropriate or lacking in social nuance.

“When communicating with deaf individuals, one has to be patient as they don’t have much exposure to the general society.

As abled-bodied people, we should be helping them, not the other way round.

“Throughout my journey of learning sign language, I’ve come to understand the depth and richness of a world that may appear lonely to outsiders but is, in reality, loud with expression and connection.

“Sign language should not be limited to certain individuals or groups. Instead, it’s a universal language that everyone should have the opportunity to learn.

‘Don’t let some idiot talk you out of it

Hazman offers the following advice for those interested in learning sign language or becoming a firefighter.

Stan lee - marvel creator
Photo via Rolling Stone

I draw inspiration from Marvel creator Stan Lee, who once said, ‘If you have an idea that you genuinely think is good, don’t let some idiot talk you out of it.’

“For those wanting to learn sign language, I encourage them to start with the basics as well as being patient and respectful when interacting with the deaf community as it is a journey of understanding their world and unique form of communication.”

Hazman said he has been bombarded with skepticism when he tells others that he’s learning sign language as it’s not a language many would think of picking up.

‘My response? Whatever, I’m just learning what I love.”


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