Fire service in dire trouble

2017-08-31 13:45
Msunduzi needs double the fire stations and staff.

Msunduzi needs double the fire stations and staff. (File)

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The Msunduzi municipal fire services are in a dire state.

The City admitted on Wednesday that its fire services have never been compliant with the SA National Standard on community protection against fire.

The standard outlines a system of determining the requirements for the operational and fire safety functions of emergency services rendered to communities.

According to a report presented by acting municipal manager Sizwe Hadebe during a full council meeting on Wednesday, the City needs to double the number of the fire stations it has now to provide an efficient fire service.

In addition, Msunduzi will have to almost double the number of firefighters it has to be able to provide efficient fire services.

While at least 10 of the City’s 16 front-line fire-fighting fleet are over 15 years old, the SA National Standard on community protection against fire requires front-line fire fighting vehicles only be kept in service for 15 years.

Five of the vehicles are out of service and three of them are unserviceable, leaving only eight vehicles available in the front-line fleet.

The report said seven of the fire department’s light vehicles were unserviceable and it recommended that they be scrapped.

Three of the remaining eight light vehicles were out of service, the report said.

Chief fire officer Billy Paton said the municipality has four fire stations, situated at Edendale, Oribi, Pietermaritzburg Airport and City Central.

“This status quo has been the norm for many years and has never been compliant with the SANS standard. At least five more fire stations are required to accommodate the large Northdale/Eastwood areas and the extended Vulindlela/Incwadi, Imbali and Ashburton areas,” he said.

He said the department had 22 operational firefighters available per shift covering the existing four stations, but an additional 60 firefighters were needed. “It is obvious from mathematics that the fire service is unable to provide an efficient service with the current manning levels.

“As a result the fire service has to constantly employ overtime to keep to the minimum manning levels to provide at least some service to the community.

“However, this situation places staff at greater risk of injury and could place council at risk, as compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as fire fighting codes of practice may be being breached,” said Paton.

The council passed the following resolutions:

To budget R9 million for additional salaries of 60 new firefighters, and an amount of R900 000 for the purchase of personal protective clothing and uniforms,

•  That the fire vehicle repairs and maintenance budget would need to be revised to correctly reflect the budget requirements of the unit,

An additional R80 million to be provided in the capital budget to build four new fire stations,

That funding of R5,5 million be made available for the construction of an airport firefighter training assimilator to satisfy the requirements of the airport licencing approval,

That the head of fleet management revised the fleet replacement programme to accommodate the R45,7 million fire vehicle replacement requirements.

Speaker Jabu Ngubo said the city’s fire department response time was a concern for those households far from the city centre.

“Two weeks back in my ward, a house was burnt down. Fire only arrived to take a statement because by the time they got there, there was nothing to extinguish,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fire department

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