The Walvis Bay Municipality, which has been grappling with the issue of shack fires for years, is currently only operating with 10 full-time employees at the fire department, despite residents’ complaints and frustrations about slow reaction and delivery.
Tutaleni Kathindi, the town’s acting chief of fire services, says this is “normal practice” when people work with volunteers in the fire industry, but he also says the municipality employs permanent firefighters who are supported by volunteers.
“We are 10 full time employees in the fire industry and so delays can there be,’’ he said and when quizzed on whether this is a sufficient number of staff to respond to emergencies, the fire chief said that this is not adequate for the demand.
Meanwhile, Jeremia Shikongo, an Affirmative Repositioning activist in Walvisbay is blaming the Municipality of Walvis Bay, its Mayor Trevino Forbes of the IPC, and Fire Chief Kathindi of poor management and leadership.
Shikongo highlights an incident that happened on 13 October, when he went to a burning house in Kuisebmund behind Small Boy Bar at around 16h00 and found no fire brigade officials or a water tanker truck.
“The fire was burning since we were in the desert. I tried 30 times to call the fire service station on different numbers but no one picked up. Some numbers aren’t working – some are being cancelled. I only won the case after calling the police on their emergency number (10111). And you know what, the fire fighters don’t stay at the fire station, some of them are employed at fish factories & some at Otombo Shebeen,” he narrated his ordeal.
As a result, he claims that the “voluntary firefighters” have to run from “Otombo shebeen and factories” to wear their uniform and drive to the scene.
However, he does not hold them accountable, as he blames the town’s leadership for the inconvenience.
“From which planet do you let an emergency person stay far from the office or from the equipment he/she uses when responding to such an emergency? They are just eating money instead of paying people so that they cannot go look for dollars somewhere,” he claims.
This complaint follows the Walvis Bay Municipal Council’s decision to divert funds estimated to be around N$4million from a new fire station to purchase buses.
The activist chastises the town for attempting to replicate the capital city’s decisions.
“They are copying things from Windhoek without an understanding, Windhoek is big, they need buses. Walvisbay is small and we have fire that’s destroying people’s properties,” he grieved.
Over the years, the town has seen its fair share of fires, such as the rogue fire that ravaged the Walvis Bay township of Twaloloka on July 26, 2020, leaving over 1000 people homeless after destroying over 240 shacks and killing one child.
Another recent occurrence is a fire that started just last week in Tutaleni, Walvis Bay, razing eight shacks, luckily with no fatalities or serious injuries reported.
Efforts to get hold of the Mayor and the Municipality of Walvis Bay proved futile by the time of publication.