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Minister Molewa lauds Working on Fire crews following successful deployment to Canada

24 August 2015


The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa has congratulated the group of Working on Fire (WoF) crew who returned from a successful deployment in Canada, lauding them as “patriotic brand ambassadors for South Africa,” whose “world-class fire-fighting skills” were now in demand across the globe.

This is the first successful deployment between Canada and South Africa. It is the result of heightened cooperation and resource sharing agreements put in place by the international fire-fighting community.

Molewa added: “That these young South Africans, many of them from marginalized backgrounds, have travelled halfway across the world to help other communities in need, is further testimony to the success of government’s job creation and skills development drive.”

Working on Fire is a government-funded job creation programme focusing on Integrated Fire Management in South Africa.

The last group of firefighters deployed to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) returned to the country on 24 August 2015. They were part of an international wildland firefighting teams, fighting multiple fires in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada, during the months of July and August. They worked alongside colleagues from Mexico, the US and Australia.

The Alpha crew were among 48 crew-members drawn from the South African Working on Fire programme (WoF), as part ofa co-operative resource-sharing arrangement between Canadian and South African forest fire-fighting agencies. The first group arrived back in the country last week.

The fire fighters were initially deployed to Edmonton, Alberta from where they were dispatched to assist with the suppression of wildland fires in the heavily forested Slave Lake area. Once the Slave Lake fire was controlled, the Alpha crew was redeployed to British Columbia, while the Bravo crew remained to complete mopping up operations in Alberta.

Minister Molewa noted that the South African crews were commended by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) for their levels of fitness, good work ethic and high morale. The South African crew were well-received in Canada and have even appeared in the local and national media.

“The opportunity to work overseas has allowed our crews to experience not only fire-fighting conditions in different fuel types, but also to work in large fire-fighting operations with a greater range of tools and machinery,” said Mr Nceba Ngcobo, the DEA Manager responsible for the WoF programme.  He added that following their month-long operations in Canada, CIFFC released positive Crew Performance Reports which lauded, amongst others, the South Africans for their physical fitness, productivity, health, safety and mopping up operations.

Working in Fire was launched in 2003 as part of government’s drive to create jobs and alleviate poverty. It is one of several Departmental programmes under implementation through government’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The EPWP has been the primary vehicle through which the Department of Environmental Affairs has delivered on its job creation mandate.

Today more than 5 000 young men and women are employed through the programme.

They are recruited from marginalized communities and trained in fire awareness and education, prevention and fire suppression skills. They are trained as veld and forest fire fighters and are stationed in more than 200 teams throughout South Africa.

Eighty five per cent of our crews are youth, with 29% of them women, among the highest levels of gender representation of any comparable fire service in the world.

“We are extremely proud of the exemplary manner in which our fire-fighters represented our country…we are confident this trip has had a significant impact on the lives of these young men and women who will now be able to further impart skills to their peers,” says Minister Molewa.


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Albi Modise
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