Apr 2023 1st edition

Tips on avoiding wild and house fire

Written by More Matshediso

With the autumn and winter seasons approaching, members of the public are urged to be cautious when using fire in order to prevent house and wildfires. 

The Acting Leading Firefighter at Maruleng Fire Station in Limpopo, Lucy Molobela, says: “fire can be your enemy and can destroy your life if you are careless.”

She shares tips with Vuk’uzenzele:

  • Ensure that you completely put off the fire when you are done using it for cooking or to keep warm. This will prevent an outbreak in case unexpected winds blow.
  • Make sure that you always switch off electrical plugs and unplug appliances such as irons and kettles in your house when you are done using them or whenever there are power cuts. Longer hours of load shedding increase chances of house fires. 
  • Teach your children different exit points that they can use in case of a fire emergency.
  • Avoid and report illegal electricity connections because they normally cause house fires.

Molobela is employed by the Working on Fire Programme (WOF), which is an Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) aimed at providing work opportunities to young men and women. The WOF is managed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment.

The firefighters are usually called to assist with the management of local and international wildfires. They also run fire awareness campaigns, proactively put preventative measures in place, partaking in suppression operations and rehabilitating burnt areas.

Molobela joined the programme in 2004 and was trained in basic firefighting. Because of her dedication and hard work, she went up the ranks and continuously leads male-dominated teams.

“After finishing matric, I could not further my studies due to lack of funds. I had to look for a job. I was lucky to be recruited under the WOF and I worked hard to change my life story,” she says. 

Participants of the programme are recruited from marginalised communities and are trained in fire awareness and education, fire prevention and fire suppression skills. They are also trained in skills including first aid, carpentry, cooking, health and safety and communications. 

Adding to Molobela’s tips, the Community Fire Awareness Officer Sello Matlhare urges the public to avoid disposing cigarette butts in public, keep candles and hazardous items out of children's reach, and avoid igniting unnecessary and unattended fires.

The WOF spokesperson Ofentse Letswalo urges citizens to build cages outside their houses where they can keep gas cylinders to avoid major damages in case they burst.

In the past 19 years, the WOF has employed more than 5 000 people who have been fully trained as veld firefighters and are stationed in more than 200 bases across the country.

Letswalo says people are only recruited whenever there is a need to beef up the team’s strength or when there are open vacancies.

For more information about the programme, you can call WOF provincial offices:

  • Limpopo: 087 352 4836
  • North west / Northern Cape: 081 290 8512
  • Free State: 087 352 4814
  • Western Cape: 021 532 1516
  • Gauteng: 011 314 0254
  • Mpumalanga: 013 752 7047
  • KwaZulu-Natal: 087 352 4816
  • Eastern Cape: 087 352 4893
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