Forestry in South Africa
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September : Volunteer fire fighters ready to fight fire.

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20 September, 2011

Volunteer fire fighters ready to fight fire.

Fire extinguisher manufacturer SafeQuip handed over another twenty fire extinguishers at the Catholic welfare and development offices today, to fire fighting volunteers from Gugulethu, Philippi, Samora Michelle and Bishop Lavis townships.

This totals 40 volunteer fire fighters that have been equipped with fire extinguishers and trained in fire fighting, rescue and paraffin safety by the CWD since June 2011.

The volunteers underwent a 4 day training course at the Ottery Fire Department and will each keep their own fire extinguisher at the ready to fight fires in their township when they occur. One thousand pamphlets printed in Xhosa and English outlining how to prevent fires from starting will be distributed to the township inhabitants by the volunteers when they introduce themselves as the first person to call when shack fires start.

The most recent SA fire statistics show that there were 376 deaths due to fire in 2009. 197 occurred in informal dwellings, formal dwellings accounted for 89 deaths, and car and motorcycle fires caused 56 deaths while fires in hospitals and nursing homes caused 12 deaths. There is a big need for the upgrading of  fire equipment in townships because the current system of calling the fire department when shack fires occur, results in long delays for the arrival of fire engines which can not fit through the narrow streets in townships. It has been suggested that smaller mobile or bakkie mounted fire fighting units are kept in townships to prevent fires from rapidly sweeping through shacks which are built very closely to one another and are constructed of highly flammable materials. The value of property lost to fire in formal dwellings was R 495M compared to R 100M in informal dwellings, with open flames being the biggest cause of fire in both cases. The need for legislation mandating fire extinguishers in homes and vehicles would go a long way to reducing the annual financial losses incurred by fire, which totalled over 2 billion rand or 1% of GDP in 2009.

Ntsiki Dwangu who runs the volunteer fire and rescue training programme for CWD in the Western Cape said "We are very grateful to SafeQuip for the fire extinguishers which will assist in preventing fires and deaths in the informal settlements - more awareness is needed about the cause of fires, because fire prevention is better than dealing with fire disaster after it occurs." CWD provides crisis relief and prevention in townships, supplying blankets, clothing furniture, household goods and food to people who have lost their houses due to fire. Donations are urgently required and CWD can be contacted on 021 4021108 or email