Working on Fire’s Yellow Cards contribute to safer firefighting

3 May,2018Safety, Training

Wildland firefighting is not for the fainthearted. It takes skill, endurance, guts, savvy, passion and a “want” to make a difference.  

If firefighters are not in tip-top shape, comfortable with their equipment, acquainted with the local landscape and vegetation, understand what they are fighting against and what they are fighting for, function well as a team and know how to calmly, yet wisely, act in unexpected situations – like a sudden flare-up or a change in wind conditions – it could lead to disastrous consequences.

Working on Fire, an award-winning, Government funded, skills development programme, takes the safety of its participants very seriously.  After completing a comprehensive initial firefighting training course, these young recruits receive a Yellow Card as part of their qualification. This card grants a firefighter permission to be deployed to a fireline.

Thereafter, these firefighting men and women are required to attend annual Yellow Card Training Camps where each individual and team’s “readiness to go to the fireline” is assessed. Only if and when they comply with all of WOF’s requirements are they issued with a new – valid for another year – Yellow Card.

In preparation for the upcoming winter fire season, which covers most of northern parts of South Africa, and runs from May to October, close to 4,000 firefighters are attending these two-day camps – either at Kishugu Training in Nelspruit, or at selected venues in other provinces.

Yellow Cards show how serious Working on Fire is about safety. It is vitally important that Working on Fire’s brave men and women, who work tirelessly to protect lives, properties and the environment from unwanted wildfires, know what they are doing.

During the Yellow Card Training Camps the following assessments are conducted:

Fitness test

  •         2.4 kilometre run: under 12 minutes for men and under 14 minutes for women
  •         Sit-ups: 40 in one minute
  •         Push-ups: 40 in one minute
  •         Pull-ups: 10 per minute for men and 7 per minute for women

Practical Assessment

Participants undergo individual practical assessments to ensure they are competent with the various firefighting tools (rake hoe, beater, knapsack, drip torch, water pump engine, fire walk etc.)

Theoretical component

Participants have to pass a written test on the fundamentals of firefighting.

After successfully completing the Yellow Card Training Camp, a participant’s Yellow Card is renewed, without which, he or she is not allowed on the fire line.

These refresher camps are, however, not just for firefighters. Working on Fire’s pilots and Dispatch and Coordination staff, among others, are all required to attend refresher training sessions before the start of a new fire season.

As of this year, all WOF drivers are also required to pass specific driver assessments in order to obtain Yellow Cards. Firefighters can’t fight a fire if they can’t get to it. Working on Fire’s drivers have tremendous responsibility. They are tasked with transporting up to 25 people safely, through often dangerous and unstable terrain, to a fireline. It is important that they themselves are fit and fireline-ready.

“I want to congratulate all our firefighters who have already successfully completed their training camps thus far,” says Working on Fire MD, Trevor Abrahams. “And, on behalf of the Executive Committee and Management, I wish to extend our best wishes to you all for a safe fire season.”