Don't condemn firefighters returning from Canada - minister

2016-06-13 18:16
Some of the Working on Fire members who have returned to South Africa. (Adam Wakefield, News24)

Some of the Working on Fire members who have returned to South Africa. (Adam Wakefield, News24)

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SA firefighters in Canada: 'It's not about the money'

2016-06-09 11:22

After almost a week on the fire line in Alberta, Canada, South Africa's crew of firefighters report back on what the conditions, and overall experience has been like. On Tuesday we spoke to Working On Fire's Trevor Wilson over Skype from Winnipeg, Canada. Watch. WATCH

Cape Town - The 301 firefighters who were deployed to Canada to help suppress wildfires there are to return home on Tuesday, the department of environmental affairs said on Monday.

It also urged South Africans not to condemn the firefighters who, shortly after their arrival, embarked on a strike over their salaries.

In a statement, the department said the firefighters should be welcomed home after Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molwa sent a mediator from Working on Fire (WoF) to Canada to assist in resolving the dispute between the management of WoF and the team of firefighters.

"[He] and a high level management team from WoF, accompanied by the South African High Commissioner to Canada, Mr Membathisi Mdladlana, met with the firefighters to address their concerns.

"Their engagement was aimed at ensuring that through negotiations there is a normalisation of the situation and resolution to their dispute so that the firefighters continue with their deployment to suppress wildfires in the Canadian state of Alberta or return safely home owing to [a change of weather] where it started raining heavily."

The department said it was because of the rain that international firefighters were no longer needed to fight the flames.

"We remain immensely proud of our well-trained firefighters who have done excellent work over a number of years, which has been recognised by the international firefighting community," said Molewa.

"The successful team was instrumental in fighting the fires in our country and saved lives, especially during the worst-recorded veldfires that ravaged the Western Cape last year.

"We call upon the nation not to condemn the firefighters. Condemning them for disappointing us can only demoralise them despite their successful track-record. Upon their arrival at home, we will engage with them to adopt appropriate mechanisms through which they could raise any legitimate concerns in future, should they have any."

The department said there would be an internal inquiry to ascertain what contributed to the dispute.

Read more on:    working on fire  |  canada  |  fires

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