A total of 24 teams made up of 480 firefighters from Working on Fire (WOF) in Mpumalanga concluded their Yellow Card Assessment Training recently for the upcoming Winter Fire Season.
WOF is part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in the Department of Environmental Affairs and is restoring dignity in disadvantaged communities by recruiting young men and women to become firefighters for the Winter Fire Season.
Teams from the Highveld region in Piet Retief, Wakkerstroom, Volksrust, Ermelo, Breyten, Badplaas, Warburton, Mayflower, Belfast and Sasol took part in Yellow Card Assessment Camps, hosted in Badplaas, completed their assessments on 3 May.
Teams in the Lowveld region from Dullstroom, Nelspruit, Barberton, Sterkspruit, Lefpa, Nkomazi, Wilgeboom, Salique, Ijaka, Graskop, Mlambongwane and Waterval Boven finished their assessment at the Kishugu Training Academy in Mbomela on Tuesday, 7 May. The assessments ensure that firefighters are fit and prepared for the Winter Fire Season, which is between the months of May and October.
The training consisted of a fitness training which included the 2.4 kilometre run where the male firefighters are expected to complete under 12 minutes, while their female counterparts are expected to finish under 14 minutes.
The fitness also included sit-ups, push-ups and pullups. Firefighters were also theoretically assessed with tests and practically assessed on various firefighting techniques which included the line construction, which helps prevent a runaway fire from spreading.
A practical test of a firewall – an activity in which firefighters run through flames with their protective gear to get used to the heat if and when they were to get trapped during a fire. The assessment ended with a route march which included all teams participating in a 10 kilometre march, to test their endurance and strength as they can be expected to go for long hours fighting fire on the fire line.
All these assessments are aimed at strengthening their firefighting skills. “Our firefighters are ready and we urge landowners in particular to get into contact with us so that we can assist with the development of clear integrated fire management services which includes amongst others, prescribed burning, fuel load reduction, community fire awareness, early detection and fire suppression plans,” WOF Provincial Communications Officer, Ms Amanda Mthembu, said.
Ms Mthembu also added that preparations for the fire season are underway as the firefighters are currently visiting schools and communities throughout the province, conducting Fire Awareness talks and fuel load reduction, all over the province.
These presentations are a build up to the Fire Awareness Campaign set to be launched throughout the province by WOF on 31 May, and it will be targeting communities, areas that are prone to fire risks and the forestry industries. “We urge communities to be more vigilant during this fire season and not to start unnecessary fires, particularly during dry days this winter.
People are also asked to remove unnecessary rubble on their properties which can pose a serious fire risk and houses next to grasslands need to ensure that there is sufficient fire breaks between their properties and these grasslands,” Ms Mthembu concluded.