Working on Fire member dies while battling Limpopo blazes

2015-10-13 11:44
Veld fire. (File, Volksblad)

Veld fire. (File, Volksblad)

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Johannesburg - A firefighter from Working on Fire (WoF) has become the first member of the programme to die on the job, while battling veld fires in Limpopo.

National spokesperson Linton Rensburg in a statement on Monday said the fatality occurred over the weekend while firefighters were deployed in a mountainous gorge in the Northam area.

"During their deployment, heavy winds changed direction, pushing the fire towards the WoF teams.

“The veld firefighters attempted to move out of the area. One veld firefighter, Modikwe Samuel Ramokgaba, from Swartklip Village in Northam, fell and sustained burns," Rensburg said.

"He was immediately airlifted to Bela-Bela hospital for emergency treatment. However, he succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital at about 23:00 on Sunday evening. He was 35-years-old and is survived by his mother and two children."

260 firefighters deployed

Working on Fire was founded in 2003.

The programme extended its thoughts and prayers to Ramokgaba's family and loved ones and would provide all the necessary support to his family, and members of his veld fire team.

Police had also been informed of Ramokgaba's death, with a full investigation launched into the circumstances of his death.

A total of 260 WoF firefighters, air support, fire trucks and bakkie sakkies were deployed to more than 20 fires in different areas of the Waterberg area alone. An incident command structure was also established, based at Alma, a small town.

Due to the size and intensity of the fires, WoF mobilised additional resources from other provinces, including four ground teams supported by fire trucks from Mpumalanga and one ground team supported by a fire truck from Gauteng.

"A total of 15 teams are now in this area fighting wildfires," he said.

Strong winds fuel fire

Speaking to News24 on Tuesday, Rensburg said beyond Limpopo, there were also around 21 fires in the Free State attended to by the programme.

"The communications at this stage suggest some of the fires were caused by lightning exacerbated by the heatwave and prevailing dry conditions. Over the weekend, particularly Limpopo province, [we] experienced some unusually strong winds that also fuelled the fire," he said.

"As we speak our management teams are busy doing an assessment of the situation, since first light this morning, regarding where there are still hot spots."

"Despite the fires we've had over the past weekend, it has been a much more quieter fire season compared to last season."

It was estimated 70 000 hectares of land, one farmhouse, three houses, three vehicles, two lodges and wild and domestic animals have been lost to the fires.

Read more on:    working on fire  |  polokwane  |  weather  |  fires

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