Manpower shortages cripples Harare Fire

HARARE - The Harare Fire department is operating with 79 workers out of a required 158, which has compromised the division’s ability to respond timeously to emergencies.

According to the local authority’s latest report, the emergency department is operating at a critical staff deficit.

Council spokesperson Michael Chideme told the Daily News that indeed the city was suffering because of a shortage of fire fighters.

“Out of a recommended 158 fire fighters, we only have 79 in service at the stations across the city. The reasons that some of them are leaving is greener pastures mostly and most of them are finding employment in the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

Chideme said apart from the skills drain, the fire department was also facing other challenges such as vandalism of fire hydrants and shortage of water at the points to put out the flames.

Human resources committee minutes read: “The committee discussed the matter expressing concern at the exposure of people and property to serious danger due to the loss of fire fighters. It noted that the reason for the skills flight was better working conditions of service offered outside the country.”

The Wellington Chikombi-led committee has since tasked acting human capital director Mathew Marara and acting chamber secretary Charles Kandemiiri to assess the reasons and recommend measures to stop fire fighters from leaving.

The council spokesperson said if the water in the tanks lasts for more than an hour, the fire fighters would actually not be doing any work as it is not sufficient to douse a fire.

“After 10 minutes we should be connected to a water main which should provide us with a continuous flow of water for the fire fighting process.

“However when we get to a scene, that water runs out before we are connected. So in the eyes of the public, they say the fire brigade has come with no water. In the past, when there was no water problems, people would not know what was happening because there will be a continuous fire fighting process,” he said.

Chideme said  apart from the lack of water, the department also has to contend with very few fire stations in Harare.

The spokesperson said currently, the city only operates from four stations namely the main station in Belvedere, Waterfalls, Greendale and Kuwadzana.

“Harare should have at least 10 to 15 fire stations dotted all over the city so that we can reduce the response time. The international standard response time to areas of high risk such as the heavy industry and central business district is five minutes.

“At the moment, we can make it in five minutes to the CBD but out of the city, the distance becomes greater since we do not have fire stations at strategic positions and the time becomes longer,” he said.

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