Today (17 June 2017), the fire fighters including those from the Working on Fire Programme were demobilised from where they were stationed in Knysna. The firefighters who came from as far as the North West, Gauteng, Free State and the Eastern Cape provinces.
After the sweeping Wildfires were brought under control and extinguished, the largest firefighting rescue team has now been demobilised. Minister van Rooyen who attended this important parade, expressed his appreciation and thanked all the teams that have been working on this fire – “the citizens who are a part the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, Cape Nature, SANParks, SANDF, VWS, Enviro Services and the young men and women of the Department of Environmental Affairs Working on Fire programme”.
Minister van Rooyen was joined by Knysna Mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies, Knysna Municipal Manager, Johnny Douglas, Knysna Fire Chief, Clinton Manuel, Working on Fire Managing Director, Trevor Abrahams, Working on Fire General Manager, Shane Christian and many other key dignitaries during the demobilisation parade of firefighters. Many of those who fought this fires were volunteers who also sacrificed their time and effort to ensure a better and safer environment for others. “Today we salute the indomitable spirit that was displayed by this teams of firefighters extinguishing the most stubborn and biggest fires”, said Minister.
Minister used this opportunity to laud the efforts of all firefighters, including those who volunteered also risking their lives to save others. He also appreciated the tremendous outpouring of support in donations witnessed from ordinary citizens, non-government organisations and equally generous contributions from corporate South Africa.
As the heroes and heroines marched out of Knysna after winning a long and fierce battle with the most brutal inferno ever seen in South Africa. Communities came out in their numbers today to show an outpouring of love, gratitude and respect for those who put their lives on the line to for the good of mankind. The street of Knysna were colourful as many South Africans were lining each side cheering on the side-lines the departure of this brave team. The many community members braved the bad weather conditions in the form of rains to see off this team of brave and hardworking firefighters.
The Working on Fire team joined the local teams to fight atleast 26 fires in the Knysna and Plettenberg Bay areas that started just after 07 June 2017 when heavy storm made landfall in the Cape. Since this incident, fires raged uncontrollably in many areas driven by strong winds. To ensure that there was better chance to deal with this fires, reinforcements were called in from all over the country and the working on fire participants were part of those who were deployed.
The Minister lauded the discipline of the Working on Fire team that came through to assist in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. To some who took part in the operation, “helping and making a difference in the lives of people is a blessing”. The working on fire rescue teams have been trained extensively to deal with all the challenges and they also have international experience which they put to test in the recent fire of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
The cooperation of all the fire teams was finally able to bring the relentless raging inferno under control and finally extinguishing it. Known as the worst fire disaster ever in our country and having seen the largest deployment of personnel and financial resources in a single fire event, these brave Men and Women went beyond the call of duty.
The actions of all teams and stakeholders that contributed to extinguishing the fires was appreciated as it showed Ubuntu in action. Other community members who spoke on the side-lines of the demobilisation parade, indicated that they had lost hope as they saw the fiercest and relentless inferno ripping down their homes and gutting their every belonging. But the tide soon turned as the team of firefighters begun making inroads going against the largest fires ever and their actions brought hope and restored confidence amongst communities.
We know that preparation for the next fire call begins now with the end of the present one. To this effect we are aware that for this teams, the work does not end here, instead it is just a temporary rest and waiting for a call to assist those in need.
“As government, we will continue to work with all stakeholders to bring the situation to normalcy as indicated by President Jacob Zuma. Through the National Disaster Management Centre headed by myself, we will continue to address the disaster relief efforts needed in Knysna and surrounding areas”, concluded Minister.
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