Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture’s greatest success story is recruiting and training unemployed South African youth from disadvantaged communities. Their journeys begin as new recruits and through skills development initiatives in Working on Fire (WoF), they are empowered to find permanent employment or start their own businesses. Many firefighters move on to occupy management positions in the organisation. Their journeys are stories of success and triumph.
49 youths graduated during a Crew leader Type 1 Graduation Ceremony (pass-out parade) at the Kishugu Training Academy on Thursday,16 March 2023. The ceremony was the culmination of hard work for the leaders, who lead WoF teams stationed in bases all over South Africa, to conduct Integrated Fire Management Solutions (IFMS) and assist in combating wildland fires.
“We have acquired numerous skills that will help us lead and manage our teams at the base,” said Zintle Dudumashe – a Crew leader Type 1 for the St Francis team.
“Thank you Working on Fire management for allowing us to be part of this leadership journey. We would not be here if it was not for your support and encouragement.”
WoF follows a structured career development path for participants recruited into the Programme. The Crew leader Type 1 training is a test of mental and physical strength.
Training by the Kishugu Training Academy for this course covers the following:
- Lead a strike attack force to contain and extinguish a wildfire
- Basic Incident Command System
- Supervise structure protection operations in the rural-urban interface
- Conduct workplace Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) inspections
- Explain basic health and safety principles in and around the workplace
- Create fire awareness among communities
- Communicate in an assertive manner
- Describe and apply the management functions of the organisation
Keynote speaker at the event, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee: Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Phillip Modise, heaped praise on the graduates and Working on Fire.
“It is pleasing to learn that the 49 crew leaders represent the length and breadth of our country. It is a clear demonstration and affirmation that indeed the Working on Fire Programme is a national programme. Again, we believe that this ongoing training initiative is part of the government’s plan to create more leadership opportunities for young men and women in the veld and forest fire fighting industry of South Africa.”
Your journey is a remarkable story of courage and commitment in ensuring that South Africa has a dedicated veld and forest firefighting force, ready and able to protect our environment, our properties, and livelihoods, but most importantly that you save lives during devastating veld and forest fires. All these you will be doing to preserve your future and that of generations to come,” Modise said.
Modise also highlighted the issue of climate change in his address and said Working on Fire would be called upon to execute a crucial role in the mitigation, suppression, and awareness of increasing wildfires.
“As environmental activists, I am certain that we are all aware Portfolio Committee is currently seized with the Climate Change Bill. Global warming poses risk to our environment and certainly to our economy. The 2022 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study on climate change, Spreading Like Wildfire, last year suggested that the increase in extreme Wildland fires is likely to grow by 14% by 2030, 30% by 2050, and 50% by the end of the century.
Your role as Crew leaders, which we celebrate and acknowledge here today, will become more critical as you will be expected to lead our communities and firefighters as we prepare and get ready to respond to the threats posed by air pollution and climate change. We wish you well in your new leadership roles within Working on Fire and we know that your families and the communities, where you come from, are also proud of your achievements today.”
We salute our new crew leaders who will now steer their teams on the fireline as they continue to save lives, properties, and the environment.