The Working on Fire (WOF) programme, funded by the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries, will be reaching a milestone of having been in existence for 17 years during the month of September.
Over the past 17 years, WOF has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings, with just 850 veld and forest firefighters, to a globally renowned programme, employing over 5,000 people, encompassing WOF, the High Altitude Team (HAT), the Drought Relief Project (DRP), the Value-Added Industries (VAI) project and its recent addition, the Forestry Support Team programme.
Celebrations of this milestone will be held at National and provincial level, with various activities and events to be held in all eight of the provinces WOF occupies its space.
During the month of September, WOF will focus on a campaign to highlight and showcase these past 17 years, with the theme being “17 Years of Successful Partnerships”.
These partnerships include WOF’s longstanding partnerships with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, national and local government entities, public and private landowners, and Fire Protection Associations.
There are many highlights along WOF’s 17-year growth path, with the many critical interventions in major disaster fires, such as the Knysna Fires in 2017, the George fires in 2018, and the Cape Town Table Mountain fire in 2015, showcasing WOF’s sought-after Integrated Fire Management services.
The 10-year celebration at ThabaNchu in the Free State, the participation in various international Wildfire Conferences, and a showing at the 22nd African Forestry and Wildlife Commission highlight WOF’s global footprint.
In addition, Working on Fire has had successful deployments of firefighters and management to Canada, Indonesia, and Chile.
Working on Fire’s contribution to Saving Lives and Protecting the Environment is self-evident in the number of fires attended, disaster relief as in the case of the Lowveld floods in Mpumalanga, the tornados in the Free State, and the rescuing of children from shack fires.
Equally important has been the impact of restoring dignity to the unemployed youth, who are recruited from disadvantaged communities, into the programme, and have gone through the ranks and now occupy management positions.