Broken down trucks impede firefighting

2019-07-31 15:00
Working on Fire workers create a fire break in anticipation of fire season.

Working on Fire workers create a fire break in anticipation of fire season. (Working on Fire)

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The fire station in Mooi River is closed because the station’s fire engines have broken down, leaving other stations under the embattled uMgungundlovu­ fire department to pick up the slack.

Sources said the fire station in Impendle was closed for two weeks until last Friday over a similar problem, meaning that two fire stations were closed at the same time for at least one week.

The Witness understands that the fire station in Howick has now been tasked to respond to fires in Mooi River (and also cover Impendle when that station was closed) which takes hours for firefighters to get to.

The trucks broken down at Mooi River station are said to have problems with their tyres and suspension.

This is yet another blight on the uMgungundlovu fire department, which has in the past been criticised for failing to abide by legislation for not meeting its obligations in terms of the required resources and number of firefighters.

Insiders said Mooi River station’s three fire engines have all been down since at least last Thursday, and there are apparently no spare vehicles for the station to use.

“We are in the middle of fire season. Howick fire [station] only has one fire engine ... and if there’s a building fire in Howick and Mooi River at the same time ... what will be the protocol? People will lose their lives,” one source said.

Firefighters at the station are turning up to work, but are “just sitting at the station”, sources said.

There are at least three firefighters on duty at any one time.

“Should there be an accident or house fire where people’s lives are at stake in outlying areas like Muden, there’s no chance that a truck from Howick will get there in time,” a source said.

DA caucus leader for the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Bongumusa Nhlabathi, said he was unaware of Mooi River station’s closure, but said the district was not dedicating enough of its budget to emergency services.

“An audit said that we are not complying with legislation when it comes to our emergency services.”

He said uMgungundlovu generally dedicated its budget toward non-core functions, and not on service delivery, disaster management or emergency services.

Tony le Roux, a manager at the Mooi-Mpofana Agricultural Association, said the lack of a fire department would not affect farmers, since the farming community has always worked with a fire protection association to control fires.

“The problem will be in town and also Rosetta, which Mooi River fire [station] attends to. There will be no services for those people,” he added.

uMgungundlovu spokesperson Brian Zuma confirmed Mooi River fire station is closed because a fire engine is awaiting spare parts to arrive.

He said those parts should arrive today. He also confirmed that Impendle fire station was closed for 10 days because of vehicle repairs.

He said the district is in the process of leasing four fire engines, and the tender will be advertised this week.

Zuma said out of the seven fire engines across the district, three are broken and there is a challenge obtaining spare parts.

He confirmed that if one fire station is not operational the district dispatches firefighters from the nearest fire station.

Meanwhile, Working on Fire said on Tuesday it had attended to 41 fires last week alone across KZN, which included blazes at Vryheid, Richmond and Ixopo.

The organisation has also been assisting farmers with creating fire breaks, since burning will be prohibited from today.

“It is imperative that landowners check the Fire Danger Index [FDI] issued by the SA Weather Service,” it said in a statement.

Working on Fire has 725 firefighters in 29 bases across KZN. It has at its disposal 32 vehicles, seven buses, six fire trucks, seven bakkies and seven strike units.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fire department

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