Human cost of poor firefighting services too high

By Andrew Louw, MPL, DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape:

The Democratic Alliance wants to covey its sincere sympathies with the family of Mrs Martha Mayigwana, who passed away in a fire this weekend.

I visited the area over the weekend and saw for myself the horrible conditions in which people are expected to live. Water pressure in Ivory Park was so low that residents could not obtain water to extinguish the fire. If the residents had better access to water, which is a basic right, the fire could have been contained much sooner and perhaps Mrs Mayigwana’s life could have been saved. It is only a blessing that the fire did not spread to neighboring shanties.

It should not have been left up to residents to fight fires.

Municipalities are meant to have efficient firefighting services in place, with enough equipment and staff to respond effectively to any emergency. However, COGHSTA has previously indicated that Sol Plaatje only has 6 fire trucks. The Frances Baard District Municipality has also stated in its Integrated Development Plan that there’s no firefighting services in either Dikgatlong, Magareng or Phokwane.

Effectively, the entire Frances Baard district only has six fire trucks at its disposal.

A lack of funding is often blamed for inadequate firefighting services. However, the human cost of poor firefighting services is far too high. Mrs Mayigwana’s passing reminds us that many others have also died in shanty fires in the province.

The Democratic Alliance urges the Sol Plaatje municipality to make haste with its firefighting targets. In its 2015/16 budget, the municipality has set aside R1 million for a satellite fire station in Homevale. We trust that the satellite fire station will help improve reaction times and we want to see that it is open for business as soon as possible.