POLOKWANE – The Department of Environmental Affairs and Working on Fire (WOF) veld and forest firefighters from all corners of Limpopo Province gathered at the Vaalwater Airfield in Waterberg as well as the Tzaneen Showground to take part in the yellow card training camp, in order to prepare for the 2018 winter fire season.
The training camp began on 2 May and ended on the 9 May. “This year we saw it beneficial to host the camp a month prior to the launch of the winter fire season to ensure that all the precautionary measures and skills will be put into practice immediately,” spokesperson for WOF Mathema Gwangwa told Review.
During the training camp, more than 600 firefighters were assessed on their level of fitness, by having to run 2,4km and doing sit ups and push ups within a limited time. Apart from attending fire lectures and writing assessments tests, they also did practical exercises to implement what they had been taught.
“Fitness forms a huge part of our training because the terrain that our fire fighters work under is very tough and requires a person who is mentally and physically fit,” Mathema added.
As part of a personal safety activity, the firefighters went through a fire wall where they need to run and walk though a live fire as part of the fire escape route for survival.
“This method is usually used when firefighters are entrapped by wildfire,” she added.
Upon conclusion of the camp all firefighters are ready to be deployed to any fire anywhere in the province once they passed their yellow card training.
“This year we are aiming for a 100% pass rate from all the firefighters because our regional managers and base partners have been working very hard preparing all the firefighters for this camp. In remembrance of the firefighters that we have lost on the line of duty; WOF in partnership with the Letaba Fire Protection Association, Municipality Fire Services, EMS, ER24 paraded through the town of Tzaneen with our response vehicles,” she concluded.
The winter fire season is launched annually on 1 June and runs until the end of October, however that didn’t stop breakout wildfires in Zebediela and Modimolle and the WOF teams were ready to take on the challenge.
Two teams of 25 firefighters were dispatched by WOF Limpopo, to respond to a call for fire suppression in both areas. Due to the early response by the WOF teams, there was minimum damage of six hectares burnt in Zebediela and five hectares burnt in Modimolle. The cause of both fires is unknown.
“We are pleading with communities to report all the fires that they see to their local fire brigade immediately and to refrain from starting fires in open areas. This might lead to runaway fires. Our plea to smoking motorists is to refrain from throwing cigarette stumps out of their vehicles while driving,” Mathema said.