The attitude of the general public is a willingness to assist in times of need, and wildfire events are no exception. Unfortunately, due to the dangers and risks associated with wildfire fighting, making use of untrained and ill-equipped volunteers is nothing more than irresponsible behaviour from a Fire Boss.
There are, however, a number of ways that interested people can assist:
a) Becoming a member of a volunteer fire fighting organisation: There are a number of such groups forming in the Western Cape that are recognised by formal firefighting organisations; the latter can provide proper training and protective clothing. The part-time training programme usually takes about 4 months to complete. Such groups also have a need for “non-active” members who assist with administration, logistical support, and other auxiliary services.
b) Providing food and refreshments: In times of crisis, calls are made via local radio stations for food and water to be dropped off at identified locations. As a guideline, bear in mind that the items are for teams of firefighters, and not individuals, so a sealed 5-litre bottle of water would be worth far more than, e.g. a single hamburger and chips. As a guideline, the following items are easy to pack in food parcels and are much appreciated by the crews fighting the fires:
- Sealed bottled water (not tap water, as the chance exists that contaminated water will be provided to unsuspecting firefighters by fire setters).
- Packets of fresh fruit, each containing 10 – 12 items • 2-litre cold drinks (Coke/ Fanta, etc.)
- Large packs of dried fruit, or peanuts & raisins
- Packs of energy / chocolate bars (10 per pack)
- Loaves of bread and margarine / jam for staff to prepare sandwiches.
c) Catering: Offering to assist at refreshment centres with preparing sandwiches and food packs is always appreciated.
d) Funding: Few, if any, volunteer firefighting groups receive financial support from local authorities, and rely on donations from the private sector. Supporting the volunteer group in your area would go a long way in allowing them to provide an important local community service.
Contact Enviro Wildfire Services for a list of Volunteer Firefighting groups in your area.