City puts our lives at risk: firefighters

FILE PICTURE: Fire fighters in action. Picture: Alaister Russell

Two weeks before two City of Johannesburg (CoJ) firefighters were killed in an inferno at the Nedbank Mall in Albertina Sisulu Street in the Johannesburg CBD on Saturday night, a team of firefighters compiled a list of grievances about the lack of safety equipment and low salaries – grievances which the city’s Emergency Management Services (EMS) allegedly dismissed.

Now, the municipal firefighters who were on the scene of the deadly blaze on Saturday night are blaming the EMS for an alleged lack of safety equipment that put their lives in danger.

The firefighters said during the inferno the team did not have communication radios and torches to assist with visibility and communication in the building.

EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi dismissed the claims, saying all 30 firefighters on the scene that night were fully equipped.

This after two firefighters, Michael Letsosa, 33, and Dan Zwane, 55, were killed fighting the blaze.

The two went missing in the building and later died on the scene from their injuries after paramedics spent over an hour trying to resuscitate them.

However, the aggrieved firefighters, who did not want to be named, said EMS had been dismissing grievances about their safety and salaries since 2002.

Speaking to The Citizen, they said the working conditions were unsafe and the City of Johannesburg had refused giving them a danger allowance.

In a document seen by The Citizen, firefighters presented their grievances to the EMS but they were dismissed by the chairperson of the grievances hearing, Johannes Mothibe.

Mothibe said he referred the firefighters to the SA Local Government Bargaining Council.


Mulaudzi however said the grievances were being handled by the “relevant authorities.”

“Those are allegations which are still to be investigated so for now they are just assumptions till proven otherwise,” he said.

Mulaudzi said the incident commander also suffered “severe smoke inhalation” on the day of the blaze and was receiving treatment at Garden City Clinic.

“… he will also be submitting reports as to what happened during the incident which will form part of investigation.”

The two firefighters’ cause of death remains unknown.

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