Kgomotso Phooko
2 minute read
15 Jul 2022
4:47 pm

KZN communities tell government they need help fighting fires

Kgomotso Phooko

Communities asked for satellite fire stations and fire brigades in their local municipalities.

Picture: iStock

The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries conducted public hearings on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill in KwaZulu-Natal.

The committee concluded the hearings on Thursday as the dry season approaches, after engaging with the districts in the province about the Bill.

The Bill aims to improve the prevention and combating of wildfires.

“We were heartened to have meaningful engagements with communities and organisations in packed halls in Vryheid, Richards Bay and in Bulwer,“ said Faith Muthambi, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee.

Majority supported the Bill

During the engagements, the communities asked government to provide firefighting training to young people in their areas.

They also called for helicopters to be deployed when fires run rampant in mountainous areas with thick bush.

The communities also requested satellite fire stations and fire brigades in their local municipalities, while others asked for basic fire fighting equipment. Many said they have lost their homes and livestock to fires.

Muthambi said that veld fires lead to the economic, social and environmental degradation in the country.

“Fires threaten food security and have devastating effects that include job losses, displacement of people, habitat and biodiversity loss,” she said.

Municipalities in need of firefighting equipment

The Bill also grants powers to traditional leaders and municipalities to be able to arrest people who start fires.

Traditional leaders supported the Bill but also informed the committee about the difficulty of fighting the fires in rural areas with no equipment to assist them.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi was also in attendance. He supported the Bill but said it came too late.

“The youth should be made aware of a career path in firefighting and that a clear programme and a budget is needed to include rural people,” said Buthelezi.

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