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Putting out fires of unemployment

Written by Samona Murugan
More than 5 000 men and women have been employed as veld and forest fire fighters across South Africa as part of the Working on Fire (WoF) programme.

Photo caption: The Working on Fire programme is taking unemployed men and women from rural communities and turning them into skilled veld and forest fire fighters.Funded by government, the programme helps municipalities, land owners, farmers and institutions like South African National Parks and Fire Protection Associations to fight veld fires which threaten lives and property countrywide.

According to WoF spokesperson Linton Rensburg, the project recruits and trains mostly young men and women from rural communities to become skilled veld and forest fire fighters.

These fire fighters are stationed at more than 200 bases across the country, with a particular emphasis on rural communities, which are vulnerable to uncontrolled fires.

Through the programme, young people develop skills that make them employable and at the same time are part of efforts to reduce the personal and economic harm caused by veld fires.

To date women make up about 36 per cent of those employed by the programme. All fire fighters must complete compulsory fitness and several fire fighting courses before they can participate in operations.

These courses include a Fire Induction Course, Basic Safety Orientation, Advanced Fire Fighting, Personal Finance Management, HIV/Aids Awareness and the Working on Fire Life Skills Programme.

Launched in 2005, the programme is part of government’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs. The programme’s success earned it the top prize in the Kamoso Awards as the best performing EPWP programme in 2012.

To learn more about the Working on Fire programme or to apply to be a fire fighter in your community, visit www.working-onfire.org.za or call 021 685 8839