There can be few situations emotionally worse than watching one’s house or business go up in flames.
To see one’s life’s work or household full of memories and irreplaceable valuables burn to the ground must be utterly devastating.
The only thing that could be more soul destroying would be the loss of human or animal life on the gutted premises.
This being the case, everything possible must be done to ensure that a small fire does not escalate to drastic proportions.
In the case of fire, business- and homeowners rush to the telephone and dial the emergency number, hoping against hope that help will arrive quickly, before it is too late.
Sadly, the Zululand Obzerver newspaper recently reported of not one, but two huge fires that destroyed businesses in eShowe and Hluhluwe.
Massive losses were sustained in both incidents and the owners will be out of business for many months.
There were similar, appalling responses at both fires – a catastrophic list of failure of man, machine and method to deal with the blazes.
Vehicles took ages to arrive, and when they did, hoses could not be connected, water ran out, hydrants were unserviceable… and more.
But for the assistance of bystanders, farmers, private companies, security personnel and other community volunteers, all would have been lost.
Provision and maintenance of vehicles and equipment should be the highest priority of any municipal emergency service – presuming they do have able leadership, well trained personnel and good morale.
As a cost-cutting exercise, one could perhaps cut back on certain functions within a municipality, but this is one area that cannot afford skimping of any kind.
Yet it appears such services are near total collapse in some places.
Fire and accident responses are literally life-saving services and the public has the right to expect excellent reaction in these circumstances.
Firefighting is not a core function of municipalities, and wherever possible emergency services should be contracted out to professionals.
In this region, Rural Metro was active in a number of municipalities, but contracts were terminated.
Perhaps the issue was politicised? Or did local government officials see this as a way of creating jobs within the municipality?
There should be no compromise when it comes to the value of human life and property.
This is the opinion of Zululand Observer Editor Dave Savides.