State-of-the-Art regional fire station expected by June 2023 for Garden Route District Municipality
Wednesday, 2 November 2022, marked a major milestone for the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) when the first sod was turned for its regional fire station, which will be built on erven 22494 and 22495 (5 877 m2) in the Tamsui Industria area in George. Construction of the R11, 6 million fire station will commence on 15 November 2022 if the weather conditions permits. Of the grand total, R3 million was provided by the Western Cape Department of Local Government and George Municipality donated two properties, to be consolidated as one, as well as waived the development charges for the properties.
This historic event was attended by the region’s executive mayors, municipal managers, chief fire officers, representatives of the principle agent which will oversee the construction process, representatives from the construction firm appointed to construct the facility, stakeholders in integrated fire management throughout the District, representatives from the Western Cape Department of Local Government (WCDLG) Disaster Management and Fire and Rescue Services and most importantly, the 40 GRDM fire fighters which will receive a lasting home from which operations will be based from. The facility will also have a specially incorporated component which will make provision for housing a specialised wildland fire fighting ground crew.
During his address, Monde Stratu Municipal Manager referred to the day as the culmination of a very lengthy process, given the difficulties of engaging in supply chain processes and raising capital. He extended a word of gratitude to the George Municipality for availing the land for the long-awaited fire station and for waiving the property’s service fees. “This is a demonstration that whatever happens in cooperative governments or societies, we have a responsibility to work together.”
Furthermore, Stratu thanked the WCDLG for contributing R3 million to assist GRDM towards the project. In his conclusion, he stated that the gathering served as a symbolic event where all stakeholders came together to witness and celebrate a regional fire station, which will belong to the region.
Clive Africa, Executive Manager of the GRDM Community Services under which the Fire Services reside, provided an overview of the history, background and origin of the GRDM fire services, which were established by volunteers in 1987. Initially, there were 14 fire fighters who managed the entire Garden Route District in terms of fire fighting and disaster management.
In his opening remarks, Alderman Leon van Wyk, Mayor of George Municipality, expressed his gratitude to his Council for approving the decision to avail the land to GRDM. He referred to MM Stratu’s comments about the waiving of the development charges and explained that in his opinion, the development charges are a type of debate that all municipalities are grappling with, a contentious and complex matter.
According to Ald. van Wyk, the George Municipal Council has adopted a policy previously known as capital contributions that has escalated due to the revised land use legislation that was passed recently. In accordance with legal advice to his Council, site-specific development charges should be investigated and municipalities had to develop a structure within those development charges to fund future infrastructure replacement costs. In closing, Alderman Van Wyk referred to the challenges of climate change in the world. He stated that according to scientists, the Garden Route is susceptible to wind damage and all the risks that come with it.
Colin Deiner, WCDLG Chief Director: Disaster Management, informed the audience about the Western Cape Fire Service Capacity Building Grants offered by the Disaster Management Fire and Rescue Services. He gave an overview of their origins and how grants are allocated each year.
Deiner explained that they assessed the number of trained fire fighter’s municipalities have; as without the right people and the right training, it is of no use. He continues to explain, that in 2014, only 14 percent of fire fighters in the Western Province were trained to the required level but just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this number had gone up to 95 percent. He mentioned the possibility of putting together a Garden Route District flood task-force. The idea would be to place an equipment cache in the Garden Route, in an attempt to train people from across the province and if a flood situation occurs in the Garden Route or another province needs assistance, help can be offered by trained people from across the province.
During his keynote address, Executive Mayor for GRDM, Ald Memory Booysen commended the Executive Mayor of Hessequa Municipality with the following words: “Mayor Riddles, you are my hero. You are one of the few mayors who annually allocate funds for your fire department. Whether it is a hazmat vehicle, a LDV skid unit or a ladder, there is always something in there for your fire department. This is something I admire about you and I want to follow suit.”
He encouraged the ‘men and women’ in Disaster Management and Fire Services to continue to protect lives and property. “Continue to be the toughest fire fighters in the Western Cape and in South Africa.”
During the vote of thanks, GRDM’s Deputy Executive Mayor, Advocate Gert van Niekerk said, “We are all part of history today; and in the years to come, we will be able to come here and tell whoever is here at the station that we were here on this historic day.”
He further said that the example set between the GRDM and its allies, the George Municipality and Provincial Government to ensure the success of this project, is a true road to follow in future joint-ventures to serve in the best interest of not only George, but the broader Garden Route District. This is an example of what can be accomplished when a true commitment is shown between entities to work together.
According to Deon Stoffels, GRDM Chief Fire Officer, the long-awaited fire station is essential to the GRDM Fire Services in fulfilling its statutory mandate and diverse set of functions. For the GRDM to have its own fire station is a considerable upgrade for the institution, especially one built according to required National Regulations and Standards for fire station buildings. The proposed state of the art fire station facility will be furnished with overhead automotive roll-up doors, a traditional fire fighter sliding pole, a backup electricity generator, fire fighters sleeping quarters and a fully equipped gym. The facility will also be an investment in Council infrastructure and its asset base. “From the onset we also wanted to go the extra mile to provide fire fighting staff with several additional features because they spend the majority of their days here, with the intent of ensuring their physical and mental well-being.”
Source: Herman Pieters, communications manager, Garden Route District Municipality