The city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith says the summer heat and high winds make firefighting a difficult task. Tipping his hat to all the city's firefighters, he says that seasonal firefighters play an enormous role on the fire line during this period. PHOTO: Supplied/City of Cape Town

CAPE TOWN - The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service on Wednesday said it would officially welcome 114 seasonal firefighters into the fold to specifically assist with combatting vegetation fires over the warm summer months.

The city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith said the seasonal firefighter initiative is one of a number of interventions implemented each year to augment firefighting capacity during summer.

Hundreds of candidates, specifically to help combat vegetation fires, vie for the seasonal firefighter positions by completing a series of physical and academic assessments. They start training in November before they take up operational duties from December 1 until the end of April.

“Anyone who is familiar with Cape Town will know that the hot, windy conditions that characterise summer make firefighting a difficult task indeed. That’s why we need as many bodies on the fire line as possible,” Smith said in a statement.

“Our seasonal staff are crucial to these firefighting efforts and I have every confidence that this year’s recruits will continue the good work that we’ve become accustomed to from our seasonal firefighters.”

The four-week-long wildland firefighting course includes the basics of fighting vegetation fires, familiarisation with different types of equipment and specific use of the equipment through simulation drills, as well as the specific roles and functions of each staff member when responding to a vegetation fire.

“I also want to tip my hat to the permanent staff who assist with the training of our seasonal recruits. It is a mammoth task and the quality of the work that is delivered year after year speaks volumes about the passion and dedication of the trainers who are tasked with getting the recruits ready to face the fire line,” Smith said.

Apart from the seasonal firefighters, the City said it will also enlist the services of two helicopters as well as a spotter plane to do aerial firefighting. While there are on average just over 200 firefighters on duty at the 30 fire stations around the Metropole at any given time, the City has more than 900 professional firefighters who can be called on in the event of a major incident. 

It also has working relationships with a number of other agencies including Table Mountain National Park, the Volunteer Wildfire Service and surrounding municipalities.

According to Smith, In the 2017/18 financial year, staff responded to 10 129 vegetation fires and this represented a 10 percent reduction in incidents for the same period in 2016/17 vegetation fires accounted for 68 percent of all fires recorded

"The bulk of these incidents occur during a four or five-month window, which is why we need extra resources like the seasonal firefighters. It really is a big ask and I appeal to the public to assist us by reporting any signs of fire as soon as possible. If you’re out and about, do not discard cigarette butts or glass and make sure that your braai or camp fire has been properly extinguished," he said.

* Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535.

African News Agency (ANA)