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Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba may have celebrated this week after handing over four new fire engines to Joburg Emergency Services (EMS), but the fire engine shortage in the city is far from over.

The Saturday Star is aware of two major blazes in the past few weeks where a fire engine was not dispatched due to unavailability.

At the King’s School in Robin Hills, Randburg, pupils and the school’s fire safety officer were forced to put out a blaze that began in a stretch of veld directly next to the property.

According to the school's health and safety officer, Mark Lentz, the fire broke out on the afternoon of May 25 at the public park next to the school. The dry grass caught fire quickly, with the blaze approaching the outskirts of the school at a rapid pace, according to Lentz.

He said the school receptionist had contacted emergency services at least three times to ask for a fire engine to quell the blaze, but none had arrived.

Luckily, the school has a programme starting in Grade 10 to train its high school pupils in putting out such fires, as well as creating fire breaks around the property to help prevent fires from spreading.

The pupils and Lentz were able to put out the flames, but Lentz said he was wary of what would have happened if wind speeds had been higher.

“The school was safe, but it could easily have been damaged with stronger winds. Luckily we have plans in place for that too,” he said.

Meanwhile, another fire broke out on June 7 at Delta Park, also in Randburg. According to Ward 99 councillor, Nicole van Dyk, the Blairgowrie Community Association had informed her of the fire and that no fire engine had arrived, though firefighters had arrived with beaters two hours after the blaze had been reported.

“There is a shortage of fire engines, but the city is working on it. There are historical reasons: the engines weren’t maintained (by the previous administration) and took far too long to fix them,” said Van Dyk.

Joburg Public Safety MMC Michael Sun confirmed that a further 20 engines were still required, as the city wished to deploy at least one more to each station.

This week, the city deployed four engines to the Florida, Lawley, Ivory Park and Eldorado Park stations. Earlier this year, three other engines were handed over to Fairview, Jabulane and Cosmo City.

Last year, the city cancelled a R161million contract to procure fire engines, allegedly because of poor service delivery from the provider.

However, Sun said that while the contract was cancelled, the city had decided to allow the company to partially continue its contract, but that a new tender would be put out “in the near future” to find a new service provider.

The Saturday Star