What we do

Working on fire is an Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) aimed at providing work opportunities to young men and women.

What is Fire Awareness?

The Fire Awareness Education Programme forms a vital component of the Working on Fire Programme. Fire Awareness Education is a cornerstone of Integrated Fire Management, given that over 90 percent of undesired fires result from human negligence. It’s essential to note that not all fires are intrinsically harmful.

The Fire Awareness Programme integrates environmental education, fire and life safety, disaster risk assessment, and mitigation. Our programme centres on developing Fire Awareness Educators, building resilient communities, and executing Fire Awareness campaigns. It also plays a pivotal role in dispelling misconceptions, altering negative perceptions, and influencing behavioural patterns.

To ensure the relevance and currency of our content, methodologies, and techniques, we conduct ongoing research. In 2018, we introduced Action Learning into our school lesson plans to enhance engagement and learning.

History and Establishment of the Fire Awareness Department

Fire Awareness Department Established
(Formerly known as the Advocacy Department)
Focused on educating and advocating about fire dangers Promoting responsible land management

The Fire Awareness Department was established in 2004 and was previously known as the Advocacy Department. The primary role of the Advocacy Department was to educate and advocate about the dangers of fire, create awareness among South African citizens about wildfires, and promote responsible land management. The Department focused on advocating for the National Veld & Forest Fire Act, promoting responsible land management, and raising public awareness of wildfire hazards.
Industry-Wide Survey Conducted
Confirmed the absence of coordinated Fire Awareness education

In 2005, a survey was conducted to gain insights into the state of Fire Awareness Education in the industry across South Africa. The findings confirmed the absence of coordinated Fire Awareness education in the country.
Collaboration with National Fire Protection Association (USA)
Adapted and introduced Firewise project in South Africa Implemented in rural, urban, and peri-urban communities at risk of wildfires

In 2006, Working on Fire explored the Firewise USA initiative and subsequently signed an agreement with the National Fire Protection Association in the USA. Working on Fire’s Fire Awareness Department adapted and introduced the Firewise project in South Africa. This project was implemented in identified deep rural, urban, and peri-urban communities at risk of wildfires in South Africa.
Fire Awareness becomes a standalone department
Focused on: 1. "Train the Trainer" workshops for FireSafe education and 2. FireSafe workshops for at-risk communities and landowners

In 2013, the Fire Awareness and Communications departments underwent restructuring, with Fire Awareness becoming a standalone department. It focused on three main areas: conducting “Train the Trainer” workshops to develop and assess WOF participants for FireSafe education aligned with school curricula; organizing adult-based Community FireSafe workshops for communities and landowners at risk of wildfires; and developing content and materials for teaching aids and handouts targeting various audiences.
Fire Awareness Department Staff
Over 90% are former firefighters Trained as project managers, facilitators, assessors, etc. Emphasis on staff and participant development Sending staff abroad for learning and networking opportunities

More than 90% of the Fire Awareness department officers are former firefighters who have received training as project managers, facilitators, moderators, assessors, and more. Our success hinges on investing in and developing our staff and participants. Historically, the department has sent staff abroad, providing them with opportunities to learn, network, and gain empowerment.

Christalene De Kella, a former Fire Awareness Officer and now leading the Video Unit, shared her experience from a trip to Germany in 2010:

"In 2010, I visited Germany as part of an exchange program to study their fire data capture methods. This experience was enlightening, helping me understand the importance of data capture and system operation. It led to improvements in fire preparedness and more. Thirteen years later, I'm eager to see how their monitoring system has evolved and to assess the impact of awareness campaigns on fire incidents."

Development of staff

Following a restructuring of the Advocacy Department in 2013, the Fire Awareness Department emerged with eight Fire Awareness Training Officers (FATOs) and eight Community Fire Awareness Officers (CFAOs) led by two Coordinators. Firefighters were recruited and promoted to these positions.

The Department has since grown from 16 to 23 Officers. A two-year development programme to upskill potential Training Officers was introduced in 2015. Initially, four Officers from KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Gauteng were enrolled in the programme and successfully completed it, thus beginning to impact their communities. The second group of Officers was recruited for the development programme in 2017 from North West, Free State, Limpopo, Eastern Cape.
They have since been placed in their provinces, where they are making a difference. The third group of the two-year programme was recruited in 2021, and two have since completed and been successfully placed in Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Currently, there are three Fire Awareness Facilitators (FAF) from KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and the Southern Cape who are still in the two-year FAF Development programme, which began in 2022.

The Fire Awareness Programme is rooted in the foundations of the Fire, Life and Safety, Community-Based Risk Reduction Course conducted by Nelson Mandela University, which is a requirement for all Officers to achieve.

Over the years, our Officers have been trained in Accredited Project Management Fundamentals NQF Level 4, Train the Trainer NQF Level 5, Assessor and Moderator Courses Level 5. We have witnessed our Officers utilizing the knowledge acquired and implementing it in their day-to-day work. Our projects have had a significant impact in the communities we serve. For example, Officers successfully implemented the Fire-Safe School Project, Community Fire-Safe Days, Risk Reduction and Fire Awareness Campaigns, as well as Environmental School Debates and Early Childhood Development Educator Workshops.

In-house refresher courses are regularly conducted with coaching and mentoring of officers to stay updated on developments in the education and community sectors. Our Officers periodically complete monthly assignments and engage in personal research for continuous development and relevance.

The training of Officers on online education took center stage from 2020 to 2022 as we faced the challenges of COVID-19, which inhibited in-person workshops. Officers acquired skills to educate using platforms like Zoom, Webinars, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and Facebook. The engagement with our audience on Facebook is ongoing, and our monthly analytics show positive results.



Igniting Knowledge and Resilience with School Initiatives

To combat the climate change challenge and foster a culture of fire awareness and environmental responsibility, the Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture has embarked on a multifaceted school programme. This initiative aligns with one of WOF’s programmatic goals: Obtaining support from the Department of Basic Education to incorporate Fire awareness education into the National Curriculum Statement.

Igniting Knowledge and Resilience with School Initiatives

One of the primary objectives is to integrate Fire Awareness Education into the National Curriculum Statement, ensuring that young minds are well-equipped to understand and mitigate wildfire risks. The development of Fire Awareness Education materials aligns with the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). Moreover, WOF aims to complement existing school initiatives related to the curriculum or extracurricular activities.

To achieve these goals, WOF has strategically partnered with Environmental Education forums in each province and collaborated with various national environmental organisations. This collaboration aims to promote environmental education and amplify the message of fire awareness.

Firefighters as Educators

WOF uses its experienced firefighters, who combat wildfires firsthand, to educate learners. They share their knowledge, experiences, and insights with learners in schools located near their fire bases. With over 200 firebases across the country, WOF has a significant presence and reach in communities.

School Awareness Programme Impact

Since 2011, to 2023 , the School Programme has made remarkable strides, reaching a substantial audience

  1. Train the Trainer Firefighter Workshops: 11 500
  2. School Activities: 12 282
  3. Educators Engaged: 57,945
  4. Learners and Educators Audience Educated: 1 859 127

In total, these efforts have impacted an audience of 1,942,354, underscoring the programme’s reach and effectiveness in spreading crucial fire awareness messages.

Firesafe Schools Projects

In 2022, WOF introduced the Firesafe Schools initiative as a pilot project. Its primary purpose is to cultivate fire-resilient communities, especially in identified district municipalities facing increased wildfire risks due to climate change. In 2023, Firesafe Schools was launched and implemented in multiple provinces, each focusing on four to six regions.

In this programme, a team of six learners and educators drive the project. Learners take on the responsibility of conducting fire safety workshops and awareness campaigns in their schools. They also run environmental projects, such as recycling, and meticulously document all activities in a portfolio of evidence (POE). Learners additionally record daily Fire Weather data and interpret it within their school, documenting it in a Fire Danger Index (FDI) Log Book. At the end of the year, awards ceremonies are held to recognise and celebrate the best-implemented Firesafe school project in each province.

Environmental School Debates

WOF recognises the power of dialogue and debate in shaping perspectives and solutions. Since 2015, the organisation has been actively engaging with schools in conducting Environmental School Debates, with at least six schools participating in each province.

These debates serve as a platform for Grade 8 and 9 learners to engage in discussions on environmental issues that impact their social livelihoods and natural surroundings. Topics have ranged from the impacts, causes, and effects of climate change and wildfires to exploring actionable steps that communities can take to mitigate these effects.

Nurturing a generation

Through these initiatives, WOF is not only raising fire awareness but also nurturing a generation of environmentally conscious and proactive individuals who are ready to tackle the challenges posed by climate change and wildfires head-on. These educational efforts are a testament to the organisation’s commitment to building fire-resilient communities and fostering a deeper connection between people and their environment.

Analysis 2015 to 2019

Learners & Educators Participated

Analysis 2020 to 2023

Learners & Educators Participated



Building FireSafe Communities

In a world where climate change is giving rise to unprecedented conditions – extreme heat, intense storms, prolonged droughts, and increasingly severe wildfires – the need for community awareness and preparedness has never been greater. The Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture’s Fire Awareness Department has taken up the mantle of educating and empowering communities in fire-prone areas, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to safeguard against wildfires.

Community Fire Awareness Unit

The Community Fire Awareness unit has been at the forefront of this critical mission, focusing primarily on adult-based Community FireSafe workshops, FireSafe presentations, and community outreach in areas vulnerable to wildfires. The aim is to ensure that residents and landowners understand the dangers posed by wildfires and take proactive measures to mitigate these risks before disaster strikes.

FireSafe Projects

One key aspect of their work is the introduction of various community FireSafe projects tailored to different audiences. These initiatives include Fire Awareness Campaigns, Community FireSafe Days, and Risk Reduction Days, all of which have been executed successfully year after year through partnerships with local stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. Collaboration with like-minded partners who share the common goal of reducing community disasters is central to the success of these projects.

Climate Change Warriors

The changing climate, with rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns, has resulted in drying fuel sources and more intense wildfires. In response, communities must be made aware of the escalating wildfire threats and urged to take preventative actions to reduce risks. These preventive measures include creating defensible spaces between buildings and surrounding vegetation, reducing fuel loads around properties, using fire-resistant building materials, increasing fire prevention resources, and actively participating in efforts to mitigate climate change.

The Fire Awareness Department consistently employs the eight disciplines of wildfire risk reduction:

  1. Fire Awareness and Education: Educating communities about wildfire risks and safety measures.
  2. Legislation: Enforcing the National Veld & Forest Fire Act to regulate and manage wildfires.
  3. Formation of FPAs: Establishing Fire Protection Associations to coordinate wildfire preparedness.
  4. Vegetation Management: Removing and reducing fuel sources through controlled measures.
  5. Risk Identification: Identifying and minimizing risks around properties.
  6. Emergency Planning: Developing evacuation plans and ensuring everyone is aware of escape routes.
  7. Capacity Building: Conducting adult-based FireSafe workshops and linking FPAs with communities.
  8. Stakeholder/Networking: Partnering with relevant stakeholders who share the same goal, including developing recovery plans and post-fire erosion and flood mitigation efforts.

Over the past 12 years, the department has reached an impressive 2,658,254 community members, underscoring the significance of their work in safeguarding lives and properties.

Fire Awareness Campaigns

One notable annual endeavor is the Provincial Fire Awareness Campaign. These campaigns are launched one or two months before the start of each provincial fire season. Their purpose is to prepare communities for the upcoming fire season by raising awareness about the associated risks, empowering communities to take responsibility for their wildfire risk, and fostering collaboration among various stakeholders.

During these campaigns, each region within a province hosts a week-long program of activities. These activities encompass adult-based FireSafe workshops, fire awareness programs in schools, door-to-door education, radio talks, online awareness campaigns through social media, and fuel load reduction activities such as clearing invasive alien plants and creating firebreaks.

Community FireSafe Days

Community FireSafe Days is another remarkable initiative. These days serve as a platform for sharing fire safety tips and recognising communities that have embraced fuel load reduction activities, actively contributing to the protection of homes and properties against wildfires. These events are initiated by the communities that have received FireSafe training, and they celebrate the reduction of fire risks leading up to the event.

Risk Reduction Day

In October, the focus shifts to Risk Reduction Days. These projects span a week and concentrate on fuel load reduction activities in communities at risk of wildfires. By actively reducing fuel loads, these communities take proactive steps to minimise the risk of wildfires and bolster community safety.

WOF’s Commitment

The Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture’s Fire Awareness Department serves as a beacon of hope for communities living in fire-prone areas. Their commitment to education, preparedness, and collaboration is instrumental in building resilient communities that can stand up to the growing threat of wildfires. Through their tireless efforts, they empower communities to take charge of their wildfire risk and reduce the devastating impact of these disasters on lives and property.


Working on Fire EPWP

Working on Fire EPWP


High Altitude Team

High Altitude Team


Forestry Support Programme

Forestry Support Programme


Drought Relief Programme

Drought Relief Programme

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