Concern over state of uMgungundlovu’s fire stations

2015-06-08 09:50
Firefighters work to subdue a fire that broke out in a building on Hoosen Haffejee Street. It is suspected that the fire was started by Whoonga addicts.

Firefighters work to subdue a fire that broke out in a building on Hoosen Haffejee Street. It is suspected that the fire was started by Whoonga addicts. (Jonathan Burton)

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THE question of whether uMgungundlovu District Municipality has the capacity to make it through the fire season was raised at a recent district council meeting.

The DA raised questions after the fire stations’ lack of staff and resources emerged during a Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) meeting.

The party said the MPAC report shows the fire fighting function, which is a core function of disaster management at district council, is “seriously compromised and may not be able to deal with the looming fire season”.

uMgungundlovu Municipality spokesperson Soya Magida slammed allegations that there is no budget available to buy more fire engines or employ more staff, saying “procurement processes do take time as the municipality does not want to incur irregular expenditure”.

Magida said recruitment of more fire fighters “is currently under way”.

The DA alleged the district fire stations have a shortage of staff, no communication system to contact other organs of disaster management and no connection to the Internet.

Off-duty members cannot be called for overtime as overtime is limited, equipment outdated, inadequate and missing in some instances, and there is a lack of security at fire stations.

The DA said there is no Hazmat equipment, which limits reaction to chemical incidents and that buildings are rented from local councils and are in a state of disrepair.

It suggested that as the district council aspires to become a metro and as a result of the district council being “unable to fulfil its firefighting obligations”, the Msunduzi fire department become the hub of the disaster management fire fighting unit and the district council fire stations become satellites of that fire fighting hub.

However, Magida says the uMgungundlovu District has a “standing service level agreement with the Fire Protection Association and Working on Fire” and their winter contingency plan has been “crafted and is ready for any worst case scenario”.

“Moreover, there are trained staff members who are busy conducting public fire awareness campaigns at schools, including communities in different wards. uMgungundlovu Municipality has good rapport with other stakeholders such as Transnet, in cases of additional resources that may be required such as specialised water tankers …” said Magida.

uMgungundlovu District Municipality elaborates on how the fire stations operate:

There are three major fire engines in Ashburton, Camperdown, Howick and Mooi River.

Two medium fire engines are used in uMshwathi and Impendle and three bakkie pumpers, totalling eight emergency response vehicles for the district.

Currently there are 104 fire personnel.

On a four shift system, four staff work on a 12-hour shift with two firefighters, one pump operator or leading firefighter and one watch commander.

There is a station commander at each station

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