South Africa welcomes its fire-fighters home

13 June 2016

The South African fire-fighters that were deployed to Canada to assist that country fight wildlands fires, have left Canada and are on their way back home.

Late last week, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa dispatched a mediator from Working on Fire, Mr Trevor Abrahams to Canada to assist in resolving the dispute between the management of implementing agent Working on Fire (WoF) and a team of fire-fighters.

Mr. Abrahams and a high level management team from WoF accompanied by the South African High Commissioner to Canada, Mr Membathisi Mdladlana, met with the fire-fighters to address their concerns.

This was aimed at, through negotiations,  normalising the situation and resolution to their dispute so that  the fire-fighters  continue with their deployment to suppress wildfires in the Canadian state of Alberta.

The mediation regarding contuation of the suppression of fire was no longer necessary owing to weather conditions in both Fort McMurray and Edmonton where it has been raining heavily, and therefore meaning that the number of international fire-fighters from other countries had to return homer

The team has therefore been demobilised fire-fighters are demobilised and return safely back to South Africa. and is returning home.

The 301 fire fighters and management from the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire are expected back in South Africa tomorrow.

“We are immensely proud of our well-trained fire-fighters who have done excellent work over a number of years, which has been recognized by the international fire fighting community,” says Minister Molewa.

The successful team was instrumental in fighting the fires in our country and saved lives, especially during the veldfires in the Western Cape last year.

“Following successful discussions, between the fire fighters and the high-level Working on Fire (WoF) team that we had dispatched to Canada, they have agreed to their demobilisation and to return back home to South Africa, said Mrs Edna, Minister for Environmental Affairs.

“We call upon the nation not to condemn the fire-fighters. Condemning them for disappointing us can only demoralise them despite their successful track-record. Upon their arrival at home, we will engage in the appropriate manner in which they should raise any legitimate concerns in future, should they have any.” said Minister Molewa.

The management of WoF has assured them there will be an internal inquiry that could have led to the dispute in Canada.

“Rest assured, our number one priority is and always was around the well-being of our fire fighters and to ensure the longevity of the Working on Fire programme,” said Minister Molewa.

The Department will continue to engage directly with the Canadian government to establish an over-arching MoU to set parametres for the two implementing agencies to work together in the future.

This will include the negotiation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Canada and South Africa, as well as a concomitant implementation plan between the implementing agencies of Canada and South Africa respectively. This implementation plan will be done in consultation with WoF fire-fighters.

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