A new association for Wildland Firefighters has been launched in South Africa. The Association for Wildland Firefighters (AWF) represents the wildland firefighting industry and associated professionals in Southern Africa.
“Numerous investigations into some disastrous fires in Southern Africa highlighted the need for a formal body to represent the needs of the wildland firefighter. The AWF aims to develop the knowledge, skills, understanding and competence of wildland firefighting in South Africa,” says Etienne Du Toit, the chairperson of the AWF.
Du Toit says the organization aims to improve the standards of safety and the working environment for firefighters in the sector in which its members operate.
The Association is registered as an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation. Any person or organisation associated with the wildland firefighting/integrated fire management fraternity qualifies to be members.
Du Toit says that climate change has resulted in a significant increase in wildfire risk, not only to responders but also to civilians.
“Monetary losses and other damages as result of these fires annually exceeds hundreds of millions. More needs to be done to address these risks. This is where the AWF comes in, an organisation that aims to share learning in such a manner that it promotes professionalism, reduces responder and civilian risk and at the same time allows for continuous improvement in all aspects of integrated wildfire management.”
The new association specifically addresses the needs of the wildfire fraternity.
“Until now, no other association specifically addressed the needs of the wildfire fraternity, there are similar associations but these are more focused on the structural firefighting sector,” says Du Toit.
The founders of the organisation come from a variety of backgrounds, including the fire service, forestry and conservation sectors and include business development practitioners with vast practical experience in these sectors.
“This Association seeks to enhance synergies between the various entities responsible for wildfire and integrated fire management, and one of the main aims is to professionalise the wildfire fighting industry in SA,” he said.
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