"There is a disaster in fire departments all over. We have been bailing out the SABC and Eskom with money. Why can you not use that money to buy new fire engines?"
This is the appeal of Mike Matlawe‚ a fire station manager at Fairview‚ in Jeppe‚ south of Johannesburg.
Emergency service personnel in the City of Johannesburg on Wednesday described how they literally put their bodies on the line last week when confronted with a raging fire and inadequate water supply in an office block housing government employees.
Colleagues of the three firefighters who died - Mduduzi Ndlovu‚ 40‚ Simphiwe Moropana‚ 28‚ and Khathutshelo Muedi‚ 37 – were speaking at their memorial service at Ellis Park Stadium following last week’s fire in the Johannesburg CBD. Muedi and Moropana were from the Fairview Fire Station. Ndlovu worked at the Johannesburg Central fire station. Several firefighters are still receiving treatment in hospital.
Matlawe said from the podium: "In 2015 we were in the same building mourning the death of two other firefighters. I thought those were the last but it was only the beginning. What went wrong?"
Firefighter Muzikayise Zwane from Central Fire Station said: “At 10.13am we got the call and we were the first response. I gave them all their equipment and told them to go up. I said I would wait for their instruction to turn the water on.
He got a call from a firefighter: “He said there was no water and asked that we send a rescue team to help them out as others had been hurt.”
Zwane described the wounds suffered by some firefighters. "Their hands were burnt because they were using them to defend themselves against the flames. There was nothing else they could defend themselves with because there was no water."