By Ina Cilliers MPL, DA Constituency Head: Merafong:
Fire stations across Gauteng municipalities are critically under-resourced by at least 35%. This is according to a written reply posed by the DA, to Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Jacob Mamabolo.
Of the 2932 available positions, there is currently a shortfall of 1602 fire fighters in the province, as well a serious equipment deficits
These shortfalls were recently highlighted when the Khutsong Fire station responded to a fire at the local SAPS barracks in a bakkie and not an official fire truck.
Further, two firefighters in the Johannesburg CBD recently tragically lost their lives when responding to a fire; allegedly due to a lack of basic equipment.
This response also comes at a time of year when Gauteng residents, particularly in rural areas, are faced with veld fires; placing many communities, their farms and homes at risk.
According to the department, Ekurhuleni faces the highest shortage with 57% (1104 of a required 1928 positions) and accounts for 24% of the provincial vacancy rate. This is followed by the City of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
Despite efforts by unions to address the poor working conditions, firefighters have reported non-improvement in working conditions.
Fire-fighting can be life-threatening work and the brave men and women who take up this call deserve to be equipped with everything they need to protect not only themselves but those they are trying to help.
The DA will continue to fight for an overhaul of the province’s fire-fighting capacity and for the provision of fire prevention kits to informal settlements.
Until the shortfall of staff and equipment is addressed, it will continue to place the lives and livelihood of the residents of Gauteng at risk.