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Working on Fire transforms lives

Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe

Sello Matlhare (32) has proudly served Limpopo as part of the Working on Fire (WoF) team for the past 12 years. Sello Matlhare is a Community Fire Awareness Officer at Working on Fire.

WoF is an Expanded Public Works Programme funded by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. It was launched in September 2003 as part of a government initiative to create jobs, save lives, and protect the environment.

As a Community Fire Awareness officer, it is Matl­hare’s job to educate people on how to prevent fires and raise awareness of the work done by WoF.

Without the financial means to study further after matric, he joined WoF in 2010.

He says that WoF was recruiting young people to be trained as fire fighters, and he jumped at the oppor­tunity. After passing the fitness tests, he was selected for the programme.

Matlhare did well and was given several promotions – progressing from first aider to health and safety repre­sentative, and then crew leader.

He helped establish three bases, namely Mogalakwena Base in 2011, Polokwane Base in 2013, and Leseding Base in 2014.

In 2015, he was appointed to his current position of Community Fire Awareness Officer.

He says passion and dedi­cation drove him to reach greater heights.

“I’ve always been a hard worker and through this programme, I realised that I had an opportunity to change my life. I made a decision to remain commit­ted to the course and now I am happily reaping the rewards of my hard work.”

Being part of WoF has changed his life, he says. “For starters, I accumulated leadership and management skills. Through these skills, I was able to establish new teams to create more oppor­tunities for other young people in the province.”

How to join WoF

WoF bases recruit fire figh­ters as and when needed.

Participants must be between the ages of 18 and 45, must have passed matric, and be physically and mentally fit.

Limpopo Communi­cations Officer for WoF Ofentse Letswalo says there is a rigorous and demanding physical selec­tion process.

WoF employs more than 5 000 young men and women, who have been fully trained as veld fire fighters and are stationed at more than 200 bases  throughout South Africa.

For information on recruitment in your area, contact one of the WoF provincial Offices:

  • North West (Potchefstroom): 018 290 8512
  • Free State (Bloemfontein): 087 352 4814
  • Western Cape (Cape Town): 021 532 1516
  • Limpopo (Polokwane): 087 352 4836
  • Gauteng (Midrand): 011 314 0254
  • Mpumalanga (Nelspruit / Mbombela): 013 752 7047
  • KwaZulu-Natal (Hilton): 087 352 4816
  • Eastern Cape (Stutterheim): 087 352 4893