Bongs braves the fire elements

2017-09-14 06:00
Bongs daring the fiery flames in Mpumalanga.

Bongs daring the fiery flames in Mpumalanga.

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Fireighter Bonga Bekwa,27, along with close to 150 other Working On Fire colleagues from the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal, were recently deployed to the Mpumalanga (MPU) High Veld Region, to assist with standby operations and fire suppression.

Working on Fire (WOF) in Mpumalanga (MPU) led the biggest team mobilisations in August for the 2017 Winter Fire Season, on request by the Mpumalanga Umbrella Fire Protection Association (MUFPA) as a standby resource. An additional 150 firefighters from the Western Cape (100) and KwaZulu-Natal (50) joined more than 600 firefighters already in the province.

The deployment came as 27 fires engulfed the province’s Highveld region in a week.

Although the extent of the damage remains unclear, the 150 firefighters remain on high alert and will be ready to provide firefighting services to landowners and municipalities.

Bekwa says, “This is my first time being in MPU fighting fires. It is very different from those in the Western Cape as this is mainly grass fires and we are used to steep mountain fires.

My team is doing well with mostly new recruits being exposed to a different environment and this being their first fires, so they are gaining experience before the Western Cape Veld Fire Season starts.”

Bekwa, from Khayelitsha, is a father of two children, works at the Department of Environmental Affairs Working on Fire (WOF) Programme.

He joined the programme in October 2013 and has worked hard to become a Type1 Crew Leader of the Newlands Team in the Western Cape.

Bekwa never expected to be a firefighter. He pursued agricultural studies in the Eastern Cape after school, but after failing his second year, he moved to Cape Town in 2013 and went on a firefighting course.

He is now in his element at Working on Fire, protecting the environment and saving lives.

“For me this is home. My crew members are like family to me. When it is not fire season we are busy building fire breaks and cutting alien vegetation so that the areas are safe before the next veld fire season.”

Bekwa was one of the unsung heroes who battled the blaze that swept across the Cape Peninsula in March 2015.

Working on Fire is a national veld and forest fire fighting resource under the auspices of the Department of Environmental Affairs and it has more than 750 fire fighters based at 28 bases throughout the Western Cape. The programme provides veldfire suppression support to the provinces, Disaster Management Centres, Fire Protection Associations and South African National Parks.

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