Fire fighters on alert after windy weather warnings

Fire fighters on alert after windy weather warnings

13 July 2008

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Nelspruit, South Africa — Fire fighters in the country have been put on high alerts as winds are predicted by the South African Weather Services (SAWS).

More than 60 fires been reported throughout the provinces since the start of the wild fire season in Many, causing damage to property and putting people’s lives at risk.

“The region is on is on high alert after the weather service warned that predicted winds could spark runaway wild fires,” said Working on Fire (WoF) spokesperson, Mangaliso Shongwe.

A total of 59 teams of fire fighters have been deployed to put out blazes in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and Gauteng.

Nelspruit was the worst affected area where wild fired raged in Graskop, Warburton, Piet Retief and Letaba.

South Africa’s top wildfire-fighting pilots and 442 wildfire fighters have undergone what is considered the most intensive training course ever undertaken in South Africa, making them highly qualified to deal with the fires which spread easily and are difficult to control.

The pilots and wildfire fighters, which are part of WoF, provide critical support during fire season in the northern and eastern parts of South Africa specifically.

Last year these regions were devastated by a series of runaway wildfires.

WoF programme manager Fred Mokgope said: “We are prepared, like never before, and on standby to launch a speedy response to fight wild fires before they cause extensive damage.”

WoF is a government supported programme, formed in 2003 to develop an integrated national fire management and wild fire fighting capacity.

It includes a job creation component with previously unemployed men and women being recruited from marginalised communities and put through extensive training programmes equipping them to become skilled wild veld and forest fire fighters.

They are deployed in teams of 22 as part of a coordinated national network of aerial and ground fire fighting and fire prevention resource.

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