Re­ser­vist fi­re­fig­h­ters an­gry af­ter con­tracts end

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Nuus | News - S­te­fan Goo­sen

No fe­wer than 12 re­ser­vist fi­re­fig­h­ters, so­me of w­hom had 10 y­e­ars of ex­pe­rien­ce with the Knys­na fi­re de­part­ment, we­re ‘’let go’’ at the end of Au­gust af­ter the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty had not re­ne­wed their con­tracts. So­me we­re al­le­ge­d­ly re­pla­ced by in­ex­pe­rien­ced re­ser­vis­ts ac­cor­ding to a wo­man who con­tacted the Knys­na-P­lett He­rald (KPH) in mid-Oc­to­ber and wis­hed to re­main a­no­ny­mous.

Geu­ren Hen­dricks, a friend of so­me of the re­ser­vis­ts, con­fir­med t­his and ad­ded that the re­ser­vis­ts should not be na­med as it could pro­ve de­t­ri­men­tal to their fu­tu­re em­ploy­ment pro­spects, a­mong ot­her is­su­es. The­se 12 re­ser­vis­ts ha­ve be­t­ween three and 10 y­e­ars’ ex­pe­rien­ce but we­re re­pla­ced by three new re­ser­vis­ts com­ple­te­ly lacking in com­pe­ten­cy, he said.

The re­ser­vis­ts’ con­tracts en­ded wit­hout the pos­si­bi­li­ty of re­ne­wal on 31 Au­gust, said Hen­dricks, which now le­a­ves them both frus­tra­ted and an­gry with the fi­re de­part­ment and mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty. “How are the­se guys going to sup­port their fa­mi­lies now? So­me of them ha­ve hig­her qua­li­fi­ca­ti­ons than e­ven the per­ma­nent fi­re­fig­h­ters,” he ad­ded.

“The fi­re de­part­ment pro­ba­bly does not want to sus­tain the cost of hig­her-qua­li­fied in­di­vi­du­als… But at w­hat cost ha­ve t­hey been let go?” Hen­dricks as­ked. ‘’In the e­vent of a­not­her di­sas­ter, will the new re­ser­vis­ts pos­sess the ne­ces­sa­ry skill set?” Hen­dricks said. On Mon­day 29 Oc­to­ber a fi­re spre­ad through Far­leigh and Ka­ra­ta­ra, be­t­ween Knys­na and Sed­ge­field, and beyond, clai­ming the li­ves of eig­ht pe­op­le and de­stroying t­hou­sands of hec­ta­res of plan­ta­ti­ons and pro­per­ty, and an as yet un­con­fir­med num­ber of struc­tu­res. In the days fol­lo­wing the in­fer­no, KPH re­cei­ved mo­re mes­sa­ges and calls from in­cen­sed com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers wan­ting to know how the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty could al­low the­se re­ser­vis­ts to go, es­pe­ci­al­ly af­ter the Ju­ne 2017 di­sas­ter.

“Then, w­hen t­hings got rough du­ring the (most re­cent) fi­res, the re­ser­vis­ts we­re cal­led in a­gain to as­sist. The­se fi­re­fig­h­ters de­ser­ve to be rein­sta­ted and ma­de per­ma­nent. The re­cent vo­la­ti­li­ty in we­at­her pat­terns and the pro­li­fe­ra­ti­on of fi­res in the a­rea ha­ve left our to­wn ex­po­sed to gre­a­ter dan­gers than e­ver be­fo­re. We need the­se ta­len­ted in­di­vi­du­als on our si­de and in our cor­ner,” he ad­ded. Mu­ni­ci­pal feed­back

Ac­cor­ding to the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, the re­ser­vis­ts we­re on a 12-month con­tract which was not re­ne­wed. “T­hey obtai­ned qua­li­fi­ca­ti­ons through their own ef­forts and fun­ding and we ap­plaud them for it, but the fact is that the­re are cur­rent­ly no vacancies within the fi­re de­part­ment,” it said.

It con­fir­med that three ot­her re­ser­vis­ts we­re ap­poin­ted on a three-month con­tract. “T­hey cur­rent­ly form part of a new re­cruit­ment pro­cess for re­ser­vis­ts on a con­tract ba­sis until the end of the cur­rent fi­nan­ci­al y­e­ar (30 Ju­ne 2019),” the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty ad­ded. Re­gar­ding the 12 vo­lun­teers being cal­led back to du­ty du­ring the re­cent fi­res, the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty said the acting fi­re chief at the ti­me re­que­sted their as­sis­tan­ce. “T­hey vo­lun­tee­red their ser­vi­ces with the un­der­stan­ding that t­hey will not be com­pen­sa­ted.’’ The mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty ad­ded that it is ex­tre­me­ly gra­te­ful to all the vo­lun­teers and sta­ke­hol­ders who “ga­ve them­sel­ves to as­sist”. “We are on­ce a­gain hum­bled by the selfless­ness of our re­si­dents and ot­her sta­ke­hol­ders who didn’t he­si­ta­te for one mo­ment in of­fe­ring their mu­chnee­ded as­sis­tan­ce.”

P­ho­to: S­te­fan Goo­sen

The Knys­na fi­re de­part­ment.

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