Only two fire trucks for local district

2018-11-13 15:30
A file picture of senior firefighters Zaheer Khan and Vusi Shabalala using the hosepipe of a new fire engine that was handed over to the Msunduzi Fire Services by Mayor Temba Njilo in October.

A file picture of senior firefighters Zaheer Khan and Vusi Shabalala using the hosepipe of a new fire engine that was handed over to the Msunduzi Fire Services by Mayor Temba Njilo in October. (Ian Carbutt)

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The entire uMgungundlovu District Municipality, barring Msunduzi, is currently only serviced by two 4x4 fire trucks.

And in efforts to avert a disaster in the case of a major incident, they will be leasing five fire engines for three years while they try to put together funds to buy their own.

The Witness has previously reported on the district’s poorly-resourced fire department, which has hindered firefighters’ ability to respond effectively to emergencies.

uMgungundlovu’s fire team services six Midlands municipalities, including Mooi River and Richmond.

The district owns seven fire engines but five of them are very old and need to be replaced urgently. They break down regularly and have become too costly to repair.

In June the community services business unit, under which the fire department is stationed, reported to council that areas with no fire hydrants, like Impendle, need big engines with a water tank capacity of 3 000 litres.

Impendle was being serviced by a Land Cruiser with a water tank capacity of only 600 litres.

Ashburton had two vehicles but a Mercedes Atego had been off the road since 2016 because the municipality did not have R1 million to repair it, while the Land Cruiser was not only old but also not suitable for the area, “especially the N3 freeway where there are a lot of petrol and hazardous tankers that are passing Ashburton on daily basis”.

On Monday uMgungundlovu spokesperson Brian Zuma said the status of the fire engines was “as good as bad” but the municipality currently could not afford to purchase more than one vehicle.

He said only two 4x4 vehicles were currently servicing the entire district, except Msunduzi, which has its own trucks. “We’ve found that it is cheaper to lease, especially under the situation that we find ourselves under because we’ve got budget constraints as a municipality. Buying one fire engine would cost us more than R4,5 million.”

He said for the R5 million that the district had, they would be able to lease five engines, including two major pumps and one medium.

“It’s also much cheaper in a sense that the lease agreements of this kind will come with a maintenance plan so it won’t end up costing the municipality more to maintain the engines for the 36 months that the vehicles will be with us,” said Zuma.

He said the district would negotiate with the service provider to sell the vehicles to them at the end of the contract as they would probably be much cheaper then.

“We are just using this 36 months [period] to put together the necessary funds to by our own engines but at the same time we need to be able to continue providing this critical service because with the current situation we are as good as bad.”

Zuma said they were fortunate that there were no major fires this past winter, but the municipality would not rely on luck as their fire team could be called to a major incident at any time.

“... We take the safety of the public of uMgungundlovu very seriously, so we want to be able to respond when we are called,” he added.

The municipality has advertised the tender for potential service providers to submit their bid documents.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fire department

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