It’s an extraordinary acoustic amalgam of spirit as the men and women, all from different parts of South Africa, get their day going, quite literally, on the right collective note.
“This is an African way of keeping us motivated and focused,” representative for the South African contingent, Khomotso Moagi, tells Kelowna10.
Back home, Moagi became the first woman ground operations manager for the Working On Fire public works program which falls under the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.
“Team spirit is associated with these songs,” she explains.
The performance starts with the multi-lingual national anthem and then picks up pace as the firefighters transition to ever more elaborate vocal combinations, moves and handclapping. It’s impossible to miss around the camp and Canadian firefighters and other personnel are out with their mobile phones recording the spectacle that one staffer describes as emotional and motivational.
The group is coming to the end of their two-week stint after all-day shifts dealing with hosing down and hot spot suppression on the fire line. They will move on to another assignment elsewhere in B.C. next.
They have a serious job to do, but Moagi says it has been a very welcoming environment to work in.
“While we are coming from South Africa with our own experience, it’s great to learn from others in the same field. We’ve had a very warm welcome.”
Thamsanqa Baleni is a crew leader and says managing the varying topography and slope angles on the ground has been challenging and, as always, keeping his team safe is the top priority. However, he has a message for local residents and firefighters.
“Keep going, keep up your spirit and keep trying to save lives and animals because that’s our duty,” he says. “Thank you to British Columbia… everyone that has welcomed us. We wish to meet you all again.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Moagi.
“We promise, at any time you need us we’ll be here to assist you guys. Anytime, South Africa is ready for you.”
With the dawn sun now glinting on the mountain, the bush trucks crank their engines, and the firefighters make their way, many of them still dancing, towards the convoy that will take them up the winding 35-minute drive to the fire line.
As the vehicles pull out of camp, you can still hear the singing.
Published 2023-09-08 by Glenn Hicks