Firefighter makes a plea

2017-03-30 06:02
Simphiwe Madliwe bears scars from his job which is now being made harder by residents stoning fire trucks. PHOTO: Mandla MAhashe

Simphiwe Madliwe bears scars from his job which is now being made harder by residents stoning fire trucks. PHOTO: Mandla MAhashe

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A local fire fighter has decided to call on the community to stop attacking those whose jobs it is to save lives.

Simphiwe Madliwa, 43, is a man who has faced death countless times responding to fire calls and as a paramedic.

He has more than 20 years as a fire-fighter and says he has fought fires, deadly fumes and even avoided electrocution in his life.

But the biggest threat to their lives, he avers, are the thugs who rob them every time they respond to a crisis.

He says for reasons unknown to them, fire trucks are stoned in the townships and the Cape Flats which makes it very difficult to do their job.

He said that the last incident happened two weeks ago while on a call of duty.

“I was attacked by residents as I was putting out a fire in Hanover Park.”

“In my team I am the one that holds the hose at the most advance end... I was doing my work, a man came in trying to assist me and I asked him not to that as it was unsafe for a civilian to do so.

He left and shortly after that I felt a thumping pain in my knee and soon after that a stone in my face.

Luckily I had my helmet on and it never hit my face and I survived that attack,” said Madliwa as he revisited the incident that took place two weeks ago.

As traumatic as this incident may have been, according to Madliwa, this was quite the norm, but it is getting out of hand.

In January it was reported that a fire fighting team was lured into an ambush in Crossroads, Nyanga where the truck was attacked.

The R3.5 million truck was severely damaged with the back and front windscreens smashed.

In 2016 it was reported that fire fighters had to withdraw from 17 emergencies over the past year after being pelted with stones, held at knifepoint and having their equipment taken while responding to calls.

“It happens all the time where you get to a scene and people are angry because we never get there on time.

First, very few people in the townships have the direct line for the fire fighting service so when they call SAPS, they have to wait a bit longer.

Secondly, some places are very difficult to find in the township because the people just don’t know their own addresses. They sometimes don’t even know their closes landmark such as a school or a shop, and thus we arrive late.

Thirdly, sometimes residents set houses alight for whatever reasons and when we arrive to put out the fire, they turn on us,” he said.

He said that this has led to a very low morale from other fighters and there needs to be measures to protect them.

“When you go to work these days, you do not know whether or not you gonna come home safe.

We need to be protected and we thought it was going to be easy for the City’s Law Enforcement to protect us but no.

All that we are given is counselling, which doesn’t remedy the situation,” he said.

Madliwa said he was speaking out because he was fearful of what may happen if the attacks continued.

“The community needs to understand that we are not the enemy no matter how angry they are.”

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