Newlands firefighter joins Canada wildfire mission

Amanda Mqhamkana is stationed at Working on Fire’s Newlands Base.

Amanda Mqhamkana, a firefighter at the Working on Fire (WoF) Newlands base, has joined a deployment to Canada to fight wildfires there.

South Africa sent the 100 firefighters and nine management staff on August 10 to aid efforts to combat fires in the Canadian province of Manitoba

Canada is experiencing record breaking heat and dry weather. Fires are burning in the wildland of Manitoba and extreme fire danger exists across the western provinces.

The Canadians have on three previous occasions requested assistance from the South African WoF programme.

Ms Mqhamkana joins other firefighters from other Western Cape WoF bases in Porterville, Walkerbay, Swellendam, George and Uniondale. Originally from Eastern Cape, Ms Mqhamkana lives in Khayelitsha.

“I’ve will be at WoF for five years in November,” she said shortly before her deployment. “From the very beginning of starting with the programme, I was recruited in Newlands which is my home base. This will be my first deployment in Manitoba, Canada.”

Ms Mqhamkana said she was thrilled to be joining the deployment.

“I’m aware that more than 1000 firefighters applied for this programme, and fortunately, WoF chose me among the other 99. I’m so excited and made a promise that I will do everything that’s been taught to me and I will use all my experience and knowledge.”

Ms Mqhamkana said they would be camping in areas flare-ups were expected.

“This journey feels good because it shows that I’m super fit and there’s nothing that I can’t do which men can do. We all do the same fitness and there’s no work that men can only do or that women can only do. We are all equal,” she said.

“I am not only representing my family but I am representing my base, colleagues in Western Cape and the country as a whole.”

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said: “I would like to extend my good wishes to the Working on Fire team as you embark on your fourth deployment to Canada to assist in bringing the fires currently raging across Manitoba under control.”

The WoF programme is administered through the Extended Public Works Programme. It provides work opportunities, skills training and personal development to communities across the country. The focus is on young people and women, 85% of the crews are youth and 30% are women.

The request for firefighting assistance came from the Canadian Inter-agency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC). There is a memorandum of understanding between Canada and South Africa which allows for the exchange of wildland fire management resources between these two countries.

Western Cape WoF firefighters who joined the deployment to Canada, are, back, from left: Wanda Siximba, Thurlo Esau, Sive Zithule, Mzimkhulu Makalima and Jacqwin Klaase. Front: Lucinda Damons, Amanda Mqhamkana, Nomanesi Hoboyi and Nolulamo Masana.