Fire fighters fight a fire at Rhodes Memorial. March 17 2009 Photo by Michael Walker

Johannesburg - Fourteen Working on Fire (WoF) teams were deployed at fires which were burning in various areas in the Western Cape, the organisation said on Monday.

WoF is a government-funded job creation programme which was assisting the local authorities to suppress and control more than 50 veld-fires which had posed dangers to life and property, said spokesperson Linton Rensburg.

“The teams have been hard at work during the past eight weeks in the Western Cape,” said Rensburg.

They were deployed at fires which were burning in the Cederberg mountains near Clanwilliam, Franschhoek, Tulbagh and in the Uniondale area in the Eden District.

It was estimated that over 25 000 hectares of the field had already burned in Clanwilliam.

According to WoF general manager in the Western Cape, Shane Christian, the organisation had decided to deploy an additional five teams from the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces to assist the already exhausted WoF teams in fighting the various veld fires.

“Through the ongoing co-operation between WoF, various local municipalities, the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre, Cape Nature and various fire protection associations, we have largely been able to ensure that there is a co-ordinated response to fighting these fires,” said Christian.

The WoF Programme recruited and trained close to 500 people from marginalised communities to become skilled veld firefighters.

They were stationed at 23 bases throughout the Western Cape.

In addition to the ground resources, WoF has also deployed 10 helicopter water bombers, eight spotter planes, eight fixed wing water bombers and 37 pilots to the Western Cape to assist with suppressing the fires.

Christian said aerial fire-fighting resources had become a critical component of integrated fire management and they played a leading role in quickly suppressing fires with an initial aerial attack consisting of water bombs.

“Our firefighters continue to work around the clock and they have received much praise from local municipalities for their efficiency and the speed with which they can suppress veld fires,” said Christian. - Sapa