Johan von Weidts, Station Commander Mbombela Fire, Rescue & Emergency Services: “We are in good shape despite some challenges. The quality of our firemen and equipment here is top notch.”
“Fire station?” we hear you ask. Yes. White River does have one, manned by 6 firemen working in four shifts and it’s situated next to the Licensing Department in Indus Road. Our little station, with its 10 000 litre water tanker, rescue vehicle and the traditional fire engine pump responds to fires in a huge area spanning Hazyview, Kabokweni, White River and supports the Central station as far afield as Ngodwana and Schoemanskloof.
Some facts you may not be aware of:
- The fire engine pump pumps 3500 litres a minute, meaning it can empty the 3000 litre tank in around 45 seconds! So no, ladies and gents, they didn’t arrive at your fire with a half empty tank, it really is that fast.
- Fortunately, the water tanker carries 10 000 litres, so that gives a few more minutes pumping. But remember, fighting fires is an art, and skillful firefighters use as little water as possible (thank you in this water stressed environment!) therefore dumping tens of thousands of litres onto a fire isn’t necessary.
- Although White River does have fire hydrants in town, the firemen can’t rely on being able to access them or the water flow, hence bringing their own.
- Murphy’s Law dictates emergencies, and invariably when a call comes through the team are out at the furthest point of their large area dealing with a fire there. They have to scramble back, fill up the tanks and get to you as soon as they can so please understand if they can’t get there in minutes. They know the urgency and are doing their best.
- Approximately 30% of the Mbombela Fire, Rescue & Emergency Service are women.
- Tuesdays are Open Day for local schools and the kids simply adore clambering over the vehicles and meeting real life heroes. Why not encourage your school to visit the Fire Station?
- The Fire Service’s motto is “Save Life, Save Property, Render Humanitarian Services” so if Junior gets his head stuck in the security gate call the fire brigade!
There are challenges, however, and shortage of staff is one of them. Firemen are trained at one of the accredited training centres around the country then need to gain several years of experience. But it’s a calling, as Station Officer Ntuli, with 23 years’ service under his belt, explains. Von Weidts adds that long service is the norm here, he has 33 years himself (not all in Mbombela) but officers tend stay and that’s great news for us because we benefit from all that experience.
How can the community support our men in the red trucks? Simple. Businesses need to ensure their staff know what to do in the event of fire by appointing Fire Marshalls, Fire Fighters and First Aiders, and conduct evacuations exercises a minimum of twice a year as per the Health and Safety Act. Call the Emergency Services as soon as possible at 013 753 3331 and the Communication Centre will despatch the closest unit. All private households, businesses, plots and farms should comply with the general fire safety regulations and requirements in terms of housekeeping, especially during the grass season. When the firemen arrive, stand back and let them do their jobs unless you are asked to assist.
And take a moment to appreciate them and their specialist skills. One day, you may need them.
013 753 3331 Mbombela Emergency Call Centre
2 Indus Road, White River