The Walvis Bay Municipality, which has been grappling with shack fires for years and operating with 10 full-time employees at the fire department is in the process of addressing the overall staff shortage, including a new shift system to have the Fire Station operating 24 hours, 7 days a week basis.
According to Caty Sheya from the Public Relations Department at Municipality the towns council has already identified the shortcomings and is in the process of addressing the overall staff shortage.
However, Sheya notes that the financial implications need to be revisited to enable Council to consider the sustainability of the proposed system.
Over the last few months, residents have complained of slow reaction time of the department and Sheya affirmed that the 24-hour shift for the fire brigade will assist with more timely responses in cases of fires and other emergencies.
Recently the council diverted funds to “buy buses” from a plan to build a fire station, which evoked questions from the public why these funds could not have been utilized to increase the efficiency of the current fire station?
She says the municipality is not aware of any Council Resolution that refers to a diversion of funds.
Meanwhile, the town leadership has been blamed for poor leadership and coordination on the matter and the municipality’s position on this is that, ‘’the current council has identified the problems and is in the process of mitigating the situation. As indicated above a 24-hour shift for the fire brigade will assist with more timely response in cases of fires and other emergencies’’.
This comes after in an earlier interview, Tutaleni Kathindi, the town’s acting chief of fire services said the department was sufficiently staffed with the assistance and support of volunteers.
“We are 10 full time employees in the fire industry and so what delays can there be,’’ the fire chief said and when quizzed on whether this is a sufficient number of staff to respond to emergencies. 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 for poor management and leadership.
Shikongo highlights an incident that happened on 13 October, when he was at a house on fire 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 brigade on different numbers but no one picked up. Some numbers aren’t working – some are being cancelled. I only succeeded 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 and 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 for 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 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.