South Africa — Moves are under way to boost fire-fighting efforts following raging veld and forest fires earlier this month in the Plettenberg Bay area.
Bitou mayor Lulama Mvimbi has asked officials to investigate costs for establishing satellite fire stations in the outlying areas and to look at reviving a volunteer firefighter programme to help the desperately understaffed fire department.
Discussing the veld and forest fires of earlier this month, his mayoral committee heard this week that the towns seven permanent firefighters had to attend to massive vegetation fires at The Heath, the Kranshoek egg farm, and at Kranshoek and Wittedrift, along with shack fires and motor accidents.
A report from community services head Monde Stratu said that, in addition, problems were experienced with the fire-fighting vehicles. He said staff had fought fires on a 24-hour basis from January 25 to February 11.
The municipality had already budgeted to establish a satellite fire station in Kurland this year, but Stratu suggested further stations in Kranshoek and eventually KwaNokuthula.
He said the fire department was two-thirds understaffed but appointments were under way for three posts that had been advertised.
Mvimbi asked Stratu to prepare a list of how many additional staff were needed and what the cost of additional satellite stations would be for the next mayoral committee meeting.
We must also look at reviving the volunteer system. These people must have a passion for the job because it wont be easy and they will be paid per call-out, he added.
The mayor expressed concern that fires in the squatter communities did not receive as much attention as vegetation fires or fires at the rubbish dump.
The environment must not be elevated to become more important than human lives, and rubbish must not be more important than the lives of people, Mvimbi said.