Cape Town - The City of Cape Town and police are geared up to ensure Capetonians are safe this festive season, including deploying five custom-built fire and rescue vehicles to tackle fires in informal settlements using foam instead of water.
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said several new measures had been implemented to keep residents of the Mother City safe.
Of the most anticipated are five concentrated air foam system (CAFS) vehicles.
Smith said the vehicles were designed and custom-built by the city for easier manoeuvrability in the townships, and to tackle the hundreds of fires associated with summer.
“The Fire Department responded to 8 000 fires last year. During one afternoon, I was told there were 27 fires simultaneously, as well as requests from neighbouring municipalities for help. We have factored these numbers in, especially in informal settlements, and believe these new vehicles will make a major difference,” he said.
Dean Williams, platoon commander at the Roeland Street Fire Station, said the vehicles were perfect for dealing with shack fires, and even fires on ships. “We’ve used them to extinguish fires aboard a ship at the harbour, and another at an abattoir in Maitland, and the difference in effectiveness and speed is enormous. The vehicles can handle almost any fire, except flammable liquids and gas, and makes the environment much safer for our staff.”
Additional measures include more than 500 volunteers to assist departments like Disaster Risk Management, Traffic Services and Fire and Rescue.
Smith said the volunteers would work in addition to “seasonal” workers.
“We have called on our auxiliary law enforcement members or auxiliary members, or ‘specials’ as we call them. They will be providing support to the metro police, in conjunction with various neighbourhood watches. Many of the volunteers will be able to act as traffic wardens to help ease the burden on the roads.”
Further emphasis has been placed on lost children at the beach, using the identikit programme to make sure children are recovered if abandoned.
“It is disturbing to think that people would leave their children at the beach and go home, but the reality is that it happens. The identikit programme ensures that no child will be left abandoned on the beach,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, police said their festive season safety operation was on track. Provincial police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said violent and gang-related crimes had been prioritised, especially in areas like crime-ridden Manenberg.
“Enough resources are available and will be deployed in areas according to crime patterns and intelligence. No area will be deprived of any policing service, while additional attention is given to problematic areas,” he said.
Kader Jacobs, spokesman for the Manenberg Community Policing Forum, said the area was quiet despite sporadic shootings over the past week, and he viewed the gun battles as a means to test the responsiveness and reactions of the police and metro police.
“We are aware they may be trying something, and are watching the situation closely. Unfortunately, two other major concerns will be the increase in domestic violence and rape cases. It has become an annual trend that is particularly hard to deal with as we can only provide responsive action and educate people,” he said.
Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said traffic in and out of the Western Cape was building up constantly.
“Heavy traffic is something that comes along with the festive season. We have a zero tolerance approach to drinking and driving, speeding, as well as fatigue management. We call on all motorists to follow the rules and ensure everyone gets there and arrives home safely.”