109 South African firefighters from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environments’ Working on Fire programme will be returning home. Picture: Supplied
109 South African firefighters from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environments’ Working on Fire programme will be returning home. Picture: Supplied

South African Firefighters return home tomorrow from successful mission in Canada

By Thandile Konco Time of article published Sep 15, 2021

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Cape Town – Tomorrow, 109 South African firefighters from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s Working on Fire (WoF) programme will be returning home in high spirits following a successful deployment to Manitoba, Canada, where they assisted authorities in wildland firefighting efforts.

Deployed on August 10 to brace high fire dangers, WoF divisions were deployed to various active fires in Manitoba from Loon Straits in the Eastern Sector and the Cold Lake complex in the Western Sector, where multiple fires were burning.

The ground operations manager for WoF Western Cape, Wanda Siximba, described her experience in Canada as a learning curve with challenges that were unique to the Canadian climate. Siximba held the cap as a team leader in charge of overseeing the performance of fellow firefighters on the fireline.

Katleho Success Mahlaba described his journey in Canada as motivating, and emphasised the excellent working relationship he cemented with fellow firefighters, management and Manitoba Wildfire Service officials.

“We had great communication throughout our mission, and our safety was prioritised. As a team we put a great amount of effort into our work. We love our jobs and are passionate about saving lives and preserving nature.”

Mahlaba said that the team had to learn to use different tools that were not commonly used in South Africa, and had to adapt quickly to using new equipment while adjusting to the climate. Nonetheless, the team felt well trained and prepared for the job.

The team was praised highly and saluted by persons within the Manitoba Wildfire Services.

Operations Chief – Loon Straits Complex (Manitoba Wildfire Services) Waren Toderan described working with the South African team as rewarding.

“It was a pleasure to work with such a fine team of firefighters. They showed extreme professionalism and hard-working skills. Any objective was accomplished immediately and effectively. Every crew member was always smiling, even when they were placed in wet swamps and difficult working conditions.”

The minister of Conservation and Climate Change in the province of Manitoba, Honourable Sarah Guillemard, extended her gratitude for the contribution made by WoF in an unprecedented wildfire season.

Weekend Argus

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