Brain drain, depleted fleet cripple Bulawayo Fire Brigade
Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected]
THE Bulawayo Fire Brigade has lost 38 qualified firefighters and officers since January 2023 while only four water tenders are operational against an ideal fleet of 15 that is needed to effectively manage fire outbreaks.
The Bulawayo City Council revealed this in response to public concerns over the increasing number of fire incidents and the unsatisfactory reaction efforts by the Fire and Ambulance Services unit.
According to the council, the Fire Brigade Services department attends to a minimum of 10 emergency fire calls per day.
In a statement, the city’s corporate communications office said the Fire Brigade was facing brain-drain challenges, which has seen the local authority lose young upcoming fire-fighters, officers, and fire engine drivers.
The development has made it difficult to close some of the gaps and cripples service efficiency, especially since it leaves the personnel with less experience in practical fire-fighting.
According to the council, most fire-fighters were leaving for Asian destinations like Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia as well as joining local private companies that pay in foreign currency.
“The Fire Brigade is facing challenges with brain drain due to the economic challenges faced. The city has lost young upcoming firefighters, officers, and fire engine drivers making it difficult to close some of the gaps,” said the council.
“These were also experienced in practical firefighting. The firefighters have left for Asia, that is Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and they are also leaving for other local companies who pay in foreign currency.
“For effective service delivery, the fire services department requires 15 water tenders, three water carriers, two breakdown trucks, three foam tenders, two hydraulic platforms, five rapid intervention vehicles, two light rescue vehicles, four command vehicles, three turn table ladders.”
The council said Bulawayo also needs two mobile control units, one decontamination unit, four support vehicles, and a single general-purpose tuck.
The 15 water tenders are supposed to be distributed to each of the council’s four stations with Famona getting nine while Northend, Nketa and Nkulumane stations should each have two, said the council.
Bulawayo has recently been having a sharp increase in fire incidents with 10 fire calls daily, which has been taking a toll on the firefighting equipment.
Notable fires in the city included a petrol storage tank explosion last Saturday that resulted in a raging fire that reduced several vehicles to shells at a fuel storage depot in the Kelvin West industrial area and another fire at a workshop in Mzilikazi last Tuesday where a total of 15 cars were reduced to shells.
Two weeks ago, Mutize Flea Market in the city centre, known as the little Musina, was razed to ashes by a fire with the latest being a grass fire that was reported at an empty space behind Coghlan Primary School on Friday evening.