Bloemfontein – The Working on Fire (WF) programme helped tominimise losses in recent raging forest and veld fires across six provinces, thedepartment of local government said on Tuesday.
“WF mobilised the fire-fighting crews from seven provinces, to fight 85separate fires,” said the department’s Luzuko Koti.
Six hundred men and women from the programme helped to fight fires in recentweeks.
“Due to the fact that the fires happened across widespread areas in sixprovinces, the resources in all three spheres of government were stretched tothe limit.
“If it was not for the intervention and assistance from the WF programme,the losses would have been much greater.”
Koti said the project had been a huge success.
“This started out as a pilot programme funded through the poverty reliefallocation that seeks to promote an integrated approach to fire management inSouth Africa,” he said.
Many jobs created
The project trains unskilled men and women as ground crews, as support foraerial fire-fighters and to assist fire control teams with prescribed burning.
“Many jobs have been created in the process,” said Koti.
He said the WF programme was initiated in 2002 through the department of localgovernment, the national disaster management centre and the department of wateraffairs and forestry, in collaboration with the forestry industry and variousgovernment departments.
Koti said the 29 WF fire-fighting crews, with 22 people to a crew, were trainedinto elite fire-fighting forces through the expanded public works programme.
Since mid-September, various forest and veld fires had been raging in parts ofKwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng and the Free State.
Aerial support and ground teams from the WF programme as well as air supportfrom the defence force had been deployed to help with local fire-fightingresources.
Helicopters hard at work
WF’s Val Charlton said on Tuesday two fires – one in Limpopo and one inMpumalanga – were still burning out of control.
“Five other fires in these parts are under control,” she said.
Charlton said all WF’s air resources were still active on Tuesday.
The WF’s two big Mi8MTV helicopters, used for water bombing and relocating crews,are working in Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal.