COJ denies alleged shortage of fire engines as alleged by COSATU and witnesses

Amos Monyela. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Amos Monyela. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 8, 2024


The City of Joburg has denied that it has only 10 fire engines to service the entire population of its 6 million residents as well as allegations that its personnel failed to act swiftly during the fire at Usindiso Building where 76 people perished after the building was engulfed in flames.

This week, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in Gauteng voiced its alarm over recent indications that the City of Joburg is in dire shortage of fire engines and fire trucks to deal with an ever increasing incidents of fires across the city.

This comes as witnesses at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry into the Marshalltown fire where 76 people died following a blaze that engulfed Usindiso Building in August last year.

Since then, the city has had to deal with raging fires in some of the hijacked buildings in the city with more than 10 separate incidents in the past 12 months.

In a statement on Tuesday, COSATU in the province through its chairperson, Amos Monyela, has revealed that the entire city with a population of six million residents has only 10 fully-functional fire engines.

“Cosatu in Gauteng is alarmed by the shocking revelation that there is a shortage of fire engines and trucks in the City of Johannesburg. The fact that, currently, there are only a maximum of 10 fully functioning fire engines and trucks for the entire city, is a matter of grave concern and poses a severe threat to the safety and well-being of residents,” he said.

Monyela said this was a dire situation as firefighting equipment plays a crucial role in responding to emergencies and safeguarding communities from the devastating impact of fires, especially taking into consideration the tragic events of fire outbreaks that have befell the inner-city recently.

“The scarcity of operational fire engines and trucks in Johannesburg raises serious questions about the city’s preparedness and ability to handle emergency situations effectively.

“Judging from the city’s evident incapacitated response to fires, the federation calls for the municipality to urgently address this matter by conducting a comprehensive assessment of the current state of all fire engines and trucks in the city, to determine the extent of the shortage and prioritise necessary repairs or replacements and allocate sufficient budgetary resources to procure new fire engines and trucks, ensuring that the fire department is adequately equipped to respond to emergencies across the city,” Monyela said.

Cosatu has also called for the city to provide ongoing training for firefighters and ensure that sufficiently trained personnel get to operate and maintain the fire engines and its trucks.

Responding to The Star, spokesperson for the city, Nthatisi Modingoane, said Joburg has 56 red fleet vehicles of different categories as per its mandate and trailing table which he said are stationed in all 29 fire stations across the city.

“The city has just advertised a contract for the procurement of red fleet vehicle and based on the allocated budget. The city is intending to increase the number of the red fleet vehicles by 21.

“As of Wednesday 7th, February 2023, a total of 19 out of the 56 red fleet vehicles are not on commission, due to breakdowns. This translate to 66% of the red fleet vehicles are available and operational, however they are susceptible to breakdowns and thus the varying status on a daily or weekly basis,” he said.

When it comes to recent testimonies at the Commission of Inquiry into the Marshalltown fire, Modingoane said its firefighters did well to douse the flames that killed 76 people in August last year.

“The city has been able to deal effectively with fires incidents that occurred previously and acknowledged that there is a need to increase the current fleet hence the tender to procure and additional 21 vehicles. That is not true, the fire (at Usindiso Building) was extinguished swiftly and the team was commended for the effectiveness shown on the day,” he added.

The Star

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