News / South Africa

Virginia Keppler
2 minute read
10 Apr 2018
5:04 pm

Firefighters face the flames in preparation for winter

Virginia Keppler

A training camp is busy assessing 17 teams from throughout Gauteng.

Trainee Fire Fighters are seen running through the "Fire Wall" as part of a training session near the Agricultural Research Council Roodeplaat, 10 April 2018, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

There was no sign of fear or hesitation as young firefighters ran through a wall of fire on Tuesday morning during a yellow card training assessment that tested their fitness in preparation for the upcoming winter fire season.

David Seefane, who was part of the team deployed to Knysna last year during the devastating fires, said: “As a leader you cannot afford to show fear, especially in real-life situations.

“Admit that in the beginning it is scary; you overcome it and you focus on putting out fires and saving lives and animals,” Seefane said.

The department of environmental affairs’ Working on Fire programme is conducting the yellow card training assessment at the Agricultural Research Council Youth Centre at Roodeplaat, Pretoria.

The camp started on Tuesday and will run until Monday.

Working on Fire spokesperson Parapara Makgahlela said 17 teams in Gauteng would be assessed.

“This is a very important season for us because there are many fires during the winter.

“There are 358 firefighters in the province to be assessed. The assessment includes a 2.4km run, pull-ups and push-ups and fire wall exercises, among the activities. These are exercises they also do on a weekly basis,” said Makgahlela.

According to Makgahlela, about 444 fires were recorded in March and and an estimated 102 546 hectares burned.

Kgomotso Moagi, a firefighter since 2003 and now a ground operations manager, said the participation of women had grown over the years. This year the group is made up of 40% female participation, which also includes female parolees and ex-offenders.

The rest of the 60% are made up of men and people with disability. The men and women are aged between 20 and 35 and have been recruited from disadvantaged areas.

“We need more women and we want them to become leaders. It is hard work. You have to be dedicated and disciplined,” said Moagi.

Fire fighter Esrom Lebogo of Rust De Winter team in Hammanskraal said the training helped them to prepare to work long hours and avoid suffering heatstroke while fighting fires.

He said he had a passion to fight veld and forest fires, because he was conserving and protecting the environment.

“If you fail your fitness test, it means you can’t attend fire calls during the fire season,” said Lebogo.