The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
BULAWAYO residents could soon be made to pay a fire levy with the local authority set to revisit the idea as its Fire and Ambulance Services department faces a number of viability challenges.
This comes amid revelations that the department only has one water carrier to service the entire city.
According to the department’s 2020 annual report, the Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown had seen the department facing a number of challenges which have negatively affected operations, among them failure to procure requisite equipment.
In previous years, the local authority has been a major beneficiary of the Operation Florian initiative which saw council getting fire equipment from the United Kingdom firefighting team. So lucrative was the partnership that the department could also afford donating the received equipment to neighbouring fire departments.
However, with the lockdown, the initiative was put on hold and according to records, the fire and ambulance department only got a television set, face masks and pre mixed tea from well-wishers the whole of last year.
According to the report, the department revealed that financial constraints were inhibiting the completion of some of the major projects including the setting up of a satellite station in Cowdray Park.
“Financial constraints have been a hindrance to the achievement of brigade projects such as training school renovations and establishment of Cowdray Park satellite station and also there is a shortage of communication radios affecting the smooth flow of operations.
“Lack of funds for infrastructure and utilities maintenance for example, painting of structures, repairs in all stations, perimeter fence and illumination and system upgrade.
“Further, these financial challenges continue to be an impediment in the execution of par excellence pre-hospital care owing to failure to procure requisite equipment (monitors) for the ambulances,” reads the report.
The report also noted that water shedding, cutting off the use of fire hydrants in most of residential areas was causing a strain to the only one water carrier available.
“Projections into the future include the establishment of a satellite station at Cowdray Park in order to provide adequate fire cover and reduce response times to acceptable levels. Registration and Accreditation of the Emergency
Medical Technician Training Schools with the Allied Health Profession’s Council.
“Further the department will pursue the issue of the fire levy and the installation of JoJo tanks in all fire stations and solar geysers as a long-term measure to mitigate water shortage,” reads the report.
In terms of fire incidents experienced in the city last year, the department reported that Ward Four had the highest number blaming it on the natural grassland in the area. The ward comprises Burnside, Ascot, Willsgrove, Glencoe, Lochview, Riverside, Buena Vista, Manningdale, Sunninghill, Waterford, Matsheumhlope Portion, Hillside Portion, Fortunes Gate, Malindela, Woodlands, Ilanda and Selbourne Park Phases one and two.
“Ward Four is prevalent to fires because it has more undisturbed natural grasslands and combustible vegetation with few dwelling units or undeveloped land. Most fires that occur in this ward are grass fires, which occur between the months May to November when the vegetation is dry.
“Based on statistical incidence analysis considering property or infrastructural fires that had an effect in terms of monetary value (fire loss), Wards One, Two, Three, Five, Six, Seven and Nine are hot spot areas with a common cause of electrical,” reads the report.
Of the fire calls that were received by the department actual fire losses were pegged at $327 million which was a decrease of 37 percent compared to 2019.
“The brigade attended 306 Fire calls with value of property at fire risk estimated at $11 billion, fire losses amounted to about $327 million during the year 2020. This indicates a decrease of 37 percent comparative to 487 fire outbreaks for the previous year.
“The decrease in incidents of fire outbreak was attributed to Covid-19 pandemic lockdown during the course of the year, which resulted in fewer business activities and school closure, children were kept under supervision by parents,” reads the report.