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I was honoured today to be part of a certification ceremony for 114 seasonal firefighters who played a pivotal role in the City of Cape Town’s firefighting efforts over the past six months. The group was recruited for the summer season to assist with combatting wildfires.

There is no doubt that this has been one of our toughest fire seasons on record. When you have headlines like ‘Firefighters battle more than 100 blazes in one day’, you know that nothing short of an extremely well-run Fire and Rescue Service could cope.

This fire season has had it all – from hundreds of small bush fires and residential fires, to large-scale blazes that have seen thousands of people displaced. I am very glad to have this opportunity to commend our firefighters and everyone involved in protecting lives and property over the past few months.Over the years, I have been on site as fires raged and I have seen first-hand the enormous strain that our firefighters endure while working long hours in unbearable heat. The Fire and Rescue Service is crucial to the safety and security of residents in any city. It is a tough job and not everyone is cut out for it, so the fact that our ‘seasonals’ have persevered through this past season is testament to their strength of character. They were chosen from hundreds of hopefuls late last year after a gruelling assessment and they have certainly shown that they are up to the task of helping us build a safer city for all. One of the priorities of our Organisational Development and Transformation Plan is to partner with communities to enhance safety and our seasonal firefighters are a good example of that partnership in action.

I would also like to commend our permanent staff complement for leading from the front and showing the seasonal recruits the ropes. Firefighting is an extremely demanding job and our staff have to be physically fit to carry out their duties. They can’t take the lift to get to you in the event of a multi-storey building being alight and so physical fitness is a key requirement because climbing stairs in their safety gear and breathing apparatus is no mean feat.

I like to think that our Fire and Rescue Service vastly improves the image of local government and certainly reinforces the City of Cape Town’s reputation as a responsive and caring government. I tip my hat to these brave men and women for their selfless service and commitment to the job.

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