PMB’s fire fight fiasco

2017-06-19 13:45
Firefighters tell of working with inadequate equipment and few few staff.

Firefighters tell of working with inadequate equipment and few few staff. (File)

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Lack of resources and stretched staff in the city’s fire services department means that high priority fires will be attended to first.

This in the face of a dry winter predicted for the province, and Pietermaritzburg, still gripped by one of the worst droughts in years.

Msunduzi management said they are aware of the high-risk fire season but can only do as much as their resources allow.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the lack of resources and staff is being dealt with but in the meantime, the city will be supported by the district’s fire services.

“We have engaged with the uMgungundlovu District Fire Services with whom we have an operational support agreement and who we will turn to for assistance as and when required,” she said.

Mafumbatha assured the public that a minimum of 24 firefighters were available at any given time at the three fire stations in the city.

Mafumbatha maintained that each fire station, situated in the city centre, Oribi and Edendale, was equipped with a fire engine each and two 4x4 bush fire vehicles were at the ready for veld fires.

When pressed to establish whether all fire engines and vehicles were fully operational and equipped, Mafumbatha did not respond to The Witness’s questions.

In February this year, The Witness reported that there was only one working fire engine at the city’s disposal to fight fires in the extensive area that Msunduzi fire department serves.

The situation came to light when firefighters alleged they were forced to fill up buckets of water in order to put out a house fire in Caluza.

Numerous despondent firefighters at that time, who asked not to be named, told The Witness that the lack of resources had crippled the city’s fire department.

At the time, the only working fire truck was stationed in Edendale.

“If there was a fire in Northdale, it could take us up to an hour to drive through peak traffic to get to Regina Road for instance,” said one of the frustrated firefighters.

The other fire engines were, according to firefighters, parked off at the stations awaiting spare parts.

Some fire engines were awaiting new brakes, new fan belts, sirens, hooters, warning lights and one was awaiting an engine head.

Mafumbatha did not elaborate on the status of those vehicles awaiting spare parts.

uMgungundlovu District spokesperson Mbeko Nzimande confirmed that they would be assisting Msunduzi during the high fire season.

But Nzimande said that they too are working with limited resources. She admitted that all three fire engines and three Land Cruisers currently in use needed to be replaced.

The district said they have three medium-pump fire engines currently in use and have budgeted for three new replacements in the next financial year starting on July 1.

“We have three Land Cruisers which are deployed in the rural areas due to their versatile nature and have two Isuzu fire engines that are available and are fully operational,” Nzimande said.

The tools of trade are not the only limitations that fire fighters are facing, as Nzimande said that they only had four firefighters on duty per station.

“Some fire stations have three fire fighters per shift,” she added.

“Our district municipal manager has regular meetings with all the local municipal managers to deliberate on the status of fire services.

“Notwithstanding normal challenges of running emergency services, any complaints with regards to our fire services are accorded the attention that they deserve,” Nzimande said.


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