Fire fighters stand as one to say “No to deforestation”

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Working on fire, firefighters controlling a forest fire

Men and women firefighters work in the frontlines of saving lives and protecting the environment.

As the XIV World Forestry Congress kicked off this morning in Durban, hundreds of firefighters from around the country stood as one to say an emphatic “No” to any form of deforestation that destroys the environment.”

In South Africa firefighters are on standby around the clock to curb wildfires that threaten our green environment. A professional firefighter often spends long hours in the bushes and climbing mountains – enduring harsh conditions in order to protect the environment.

Over and above fighting fires, it is a firefighter’s responsibility to also prevent a wildfire before it happens by performing other duties which include cutting of trees, equipment production, community awareness and detection of fire.  It is imperative that an accidental wildfire is prevented from happening in the first place – to mitigate the effects thereof.

We chose the firefighting profession because we are passionate about protecting the environment. Lauren Visagie, a firefighter from the Bredasdorp base admits that their job is not an easy one and it comes with enormous challenges. But, for the love of nature, she is prepared to sometimes sleep in the field and endure harsh conditions to save the nature that provides us with food and other necessities. Their efforts directly contribute to enhanced livelihoods and food security.

The effects of wildfires are wide-ranging. It has a significant impact on the economy, environment, heritage and social fabric of rural areas.

Firefighters in South Africa are employed by the Working on Fire, which is one of the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme, funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs. Working on Fire employs about 5000 firefighters who are professionally trained to supress veld and forest fires. The programme’s teams are deployed in 200 bases across the country to reduce the personal and economic harm caused by an unwanted wildfire.  The firefighters working within the communities and run many educational programmes throughout the country.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent wildfires from happening to protect our nature. Let’s protect our environment,” said the team of enthusiastic firefighters from the Western Cape base.

Blogpost by Thokozani Dlamini (IWMI) – T.Dlamini(at)cgiar.org
Picture courtesy Thokozani Dlamini

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