The City’s Fire and Rescue Services will officially welcome in 114 seasonal firefighters ahead of summer, which is also known as the fire season in Cape Town. The season recruits will assist in combatting vegetation fires during the coming months of heat. Blazes flare up in Cape Town each summer, as the hot and windy conditions encourage wildfires to break out and spread, making it is necessary to expand the city’s firefighting force.
Hundreds of candidates vie for a position as a seasonal firefighter each year, and have to complete a series of physical and academic assessments in order to be eligible for selection. The chosen candidates begin training in November, and assume their operation duties from 1 December until the end of April.
“Anyone who is familiar with Cape Town will know that the hot, windy conditions that characterise summer make firefighting a difficult task indeed. That’s why we need as many bodies on the fire line as possible,” Mayco member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, JP Smith, says. “Our seasonal staff are crucial to these firefighting efforts and I have every confidence that this year’s recruits will continue the good work that we’ve become accustomed to from our seasonal firefighters.”
The four-week-long wildland firefighting course includes the basics of fighting vegetation fires, familiarising the recruits with different types of equipment and specific use of the equipment through simulation drills.
This also includes learning the specific roles and functions of each staff member when responding to a vegetation fire.
“I also want to tip my hat to the permanent staff who assist with the training of our seasonal recruits. It is a mammoth task and the quality of the work that is delivered year after year speaks volumes about the passion and dedication of the trainers who are tasked with getting the recruits ready to face the fire line,” Smith says.
Apart from the seasonal firefighters, the City will also enlist the services of two helicopters as well as a spotter plane to do aerial firefighting.
While there are on average just over 200 firefighters on duty at the 30 fire stations around the city’s metropole at any given time, from December there will be 900 firefighters who can be called on in the event of a major incident.
The City has a long-standing working relationship with a number of other bodies such as Table Mountain National Park, the Volunteer Wildfire Service and surrounding municipalities.
In the 2017/18 financial year, firefighters responded to 10 129 vegetation fires – a 10% reduction in the number of fires in the same period in 2016/17. Vegetation fires accounted for 68% of all fires recorded in last year.
“The bulk of these incidents occur during a four or five-month window, which is why we need extra resources like the seasonal firefighters. It really is a big ask and I appeal to the public to assist us by reporting any signs of fire as soon as possible. If you’re out and about, do not discard cigarette butts or glass and make sure that your braai or camp fire has been properly extinguished,” Smith says.
Fire emergencies can be reported to the Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialling 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline.