The award-winning Working on Fire Programme has grown from its humble beginnings to a globally-renowned Programme, employing over 5 000 people, encompassing the Working on Fire, High Altitude Team, Drought Relief Project, and Forestry Support Programmes.
There are many highlights along this 18-year journey, including many critical interventions in major disaster fires such as the Knysna Fires in 2017, the Table Mountain fires in 2018 and 2021, and the participation in the international Wildfire Conferences in Spain, South Africa and South Korea.
The Programme also had successful deployments of firefighters and management to Canada, Indonesia, and Chile. We recently came back to our fourth deployment in Canada to high praise from the Canadian Fire Authorities and here at home.
The contribution to Saving Lives and Protecting the Environment over the past 18 years will be recorded in history in the number of fires attended, disaster relief – as in the case of the floods in Mpumalanga, the tornados in the Free State, and the rescuing of children from shack fires – just to name a few.
The impact of Retoring Dignity to the unemployed youth is also evident by the number of former firefighters, who were recruited by the Programme, occupying management positions. It is particularly pleasing to see our firefighters graduate at the graduation ceremonies and witness their journey as they climb the corporate ladder.
Many WOF Alumni are now engaged in full-time employment in state structures such as the SAPS, SANDF, Correctional Services, Municipal Fire Services, local government structures, Conservation Agencies, the Private Sector and some have pursued entrepreneurial careers on the foundation of their experience within WOF.
The Working on Fire Programme has implemented the successful provision of environmental services – fire suppression, fire prevention, fire awareness, dispatch and coordination, rehabilitation, research, and development – to South Africa and the world, as evident with our deployment.