Fire fighting programme tears down stereotypes and changes lives

03 July 2018 - 07:00 By gcis vuk'uzenzele
Fire in a building.
Fire in a building.
Image: 123RF/ambrozinio.

Working on Fire (WOF) manages an integrated fire management programme which has ensured employment for many youngsters from marginalised communities.

Funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs the programme falls under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

It provides hope to many young people who can’t find jobs and has achieved remarkable success in the prevention and control of wild fires lessening their impact.

The programme employs over 5 000 people from marginalised communities and has trained them in fire awareness, education, prevention and suppression, as well as other skills, such as first aid, carpentry, cooking, health and safety and communications.

WOF communications officer Lebogang Maseko explained that the programme targets youth and employs people with disabilities to work at its provincial bases.

“We place a strong emphasis on skills development and providing jobs to youth who are fresh out of high school or who have just graduated from tertiary institutions. Of the programme’s recruits 94 percent are youth, 31 percent are female and three percent have a disability,” she confirmed.

Lorraine Mokoena (31) from Mpumalanga is one of the recruits who benefited from the programme. She has been working at WOF for the past 11 years.

After completing matric she struggled to find employment for two years. Her sister then told her about the WOF programme.

“The application process was tough. Fitness is the most important criteria for the job and new recruits are put through their paces. Once you pass the test you have to pass a medical examination and then the firefighting training begins,” she said.

Mokoena started as a junior firefighter and has worked her way up to the position of senior crew leader, leading a team of 18 firefighters.

“This job has changed my life. I am the only bread winner for my siblings and two children. I can now feed my family and send my children to school,” said Mokoena.

She admitted that the firefighting arena is generally a man’s world and she has learnt to be tough as a woman in this field.

Mokoena has set her sight on becoming a ground operations manager within the next two years. This will make her responsible for all WOF teams located in Mpumalanga.   

With fire season upon us Mokoena offered the following tips to prevent veld fires: 

  • Don’t light fires in the open if you cannot control them.
  • Ensure that you have enough help and equipment to cope with all eventualities.
  • Don’t leave a fire unattended
  • Keep an eye on the weather.
  • Fires in the open should not be lit on very hot or windy days.

• This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.


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