EWN Special Report: Joburg firemen fighting off fires at work

EWN can reveal that many firemen can't respond to emergencies because of faulty vehicles and no equipment.

A faulty fire truck at a Joburg fire station leaks nearly half a tank every hour. Picture: Emily Corke/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - An Eyewitness News special report has revealed that firefighters in Johannesburg are expected to work without vital equipment and can spend up to R1,000 a month, of their own money, on materials they need to survive.

These claims have been made by seven firefighters in the city, who have told EWN they don't even have cleaning materials to wash contaminated equipment after a call.

The death of two firemen in a structural fire last month has prompted questions about safety in the industry, with the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) raising concerns about a shortage of resources and staff.

The seven firemen, who have asked to remain anonymous, have told EWN they often can't respond to emergency calls because fire engines aren't working.

While Emergency Medical Services (EMS) management has insisted that equipment is tested and updated regularly, firefighters said they can wait for months just for cleaning materials to remove blood from their vehicles and gear.

EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi has however confirmed there is an aging fleet of fire engines across the city, with many vehicles out of order.

"We do acknowledge that most of our vehicles are much older. We are slowly phasing them out and getting the new ones in."

The firefighters said they've listened to their colleagues begging for backup over their radios, but they simply can't respond.

"They're listening to the radio and they'll often come into the watch room to come and hear what's going on? are the guys alright? are they safe? They try to make alternative plans to possibly get to the call and they're hearing the crews calling for backup."

Trade union Imatu has also raised concerns after their investigation found staff at at least nine fire stations didn't know when last their equipment had been tested.