Poor operating facilities, a lack of vital equipment, and fire engines that should have been written off.These were just some of the problems uncovered by Democratic Alliance councillors in uMgungundlovu, who conducted oversight visits at the district’s failing fire departments. The councillors visited fire stations in Mooi River and Howick yesterday to assess their functionality. Lack of manpower and vehicles in need of replacing were the biggest issues at Mooi River. Councillors were barred from entering Howick fire station, because senior firefighters were not at the station at the time. Problems facing fire stations falling under the control of the district municipality have been well-documented in The Witness, and it was recently reported that the Mooi River fire station was not operational because its one fire engine had broken down. Councillors also found that firefighters were struggling to communicate with the local police because of problems with radio communications.The station’s roof also leaks in places and it has numerous old and broken pieces of furniture.DA councillor Mike Bond said the station’s 12-person team, working on a three-person shift pattern, was not big enough to service the area. “This vehicle [fire engine] has done its life term. It should be written off. “This fire engine is unable to go into rural areas because it gets stuck. This station should have at least two bakkies,” he added.The fire engine, which has been in use since 2007, has more than 100 000 km on the clock. Bond said the entire district was suffering from similar problems. “Fire protection hasn’t been a priority for the district. Equipment is old need replacing. Essential services is not given a priority,” he added.He also believes the district has been violating norms and standards for fire stations for some years.“From here, we will submit a report to the community service committee about what we found,” Bond said.The DA team also plans to submit a complaint about being unable to conduct an oversight visit at the Howick fire station because the hierarchy was not there. “They cannot bar councillors from conducting oversight visits,” DA caucus leader for uMgungundlovu, Bongumusa Nhlabathi, said. “The DA has always been saying the district does not put enough money toward core functions.“They are spending R5 million on the Mandela Marathon, and that money could have gone a long way toward core functions. I don’t believe Mandela, who fought injustice, would be happy about that.”uMgungundlovu spokesperson Brian Zuma did not respond to a query from The Witness at the time of going to press.