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Working On Fire

Introduction and background

Working on Fire (WoF) was launched in September 2003 as part of the South African Government's initiative to create jobs and to alleviate poverty. Today WoF employs more than 5000 young men and women who have been fully trained as veld and forest fire fighters and are stationed in more than 200 teams throughout South Africa. WoF addresses the prevention and control of Wildland fires to enhance the sustainability and protection of life, poverty and the environment through the implementation of Integrated Fire Management (IFM) practices.

Working on Fire (WoF) is a government-funded, job-creation programme focusing on Integrated Fire Management in South Africa.

WoF fire fighters are recruited from marginalised communities and trained in fire awareness and education, prevention and fire suppression skills. These young men and women form veld and forest fire fighting ground crews, stationed at bases around the country to help stop the scourge of wildfire which costs the South African economy billions of rands annually.

The multi-million-rand job creation Programme is primarily geared towards assisting government to fulfil its job creation and social upliftment promise to the people of South Africa. There are currently more than 5 000 beneficiaries in the Programme, 85% of whom are youth, 29% are women (the highest level in any comparable fire service in the world).

On average, some of 54% of the government funds are spent on wages with an additional 24% spent on indirect employee costs such as training, personal protective equipment (PPE) and transport. This is the highest level of beneficiary benefits in the EPWP Programmes and has been confirmed in recent impact study where beneficiaries report significant changes in their lives and their families’ living standards.

In addition, WoF is mandated to implement Integrated Fire Management, which includes supporting the development of the Fire Protection Association (FPA) structure under the National Veld and Forest Fire Act of 1998.

The multi-partner Working on Fire Programme is implemented by the FFA Group of Companies, a leading supplier of Integrated Fire Management Services (IFMS) in South Africa.


  • Reduce the cost of clearing the invasive plants
  • Prevention and control of wild fires
  • To implement integrated fire management
  • To contribute to the reduction of densely invaded areas
  • To reduce the risk of high biomass loads after clearing


Working on fire aims at enhancing the sustainability and protection of life, livelihoods, ecosystem services and natural processes through integrated fire management. In doing this it has to:

1. Develop capabilities and to contribute resources and provide services to Fire Protection Associations (FPA), land-management and jurisdictional agencies through:-

  • A national fire-fighting resource in order to assist in reducing the loss of human life and economic damage caused by wild fires
  • Establishment and enhanced sustainability of FPAs in terms of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act within a national fire  management framework
  • The use of fire for the control of invasive alien plants and natural resource restoration
  • Co-ordinating resources for the maintenance of natural fire regimes in order to optimise natural (bio) diversity, processes and ecosystem services
  • Co-ordinating fire management interventions in order to optimise the use of resources


2. Empower communities affected by fire in order for them to understand the benefits of, and potential harm caused by fire through:-

  • Partnerships with the private sector, land management, and jurisdiction agencies to share resources, expertise and learning to raise awareness and reduce the damage caused to life and property by unwanted fires, and reduce the risk of ignition and spread of unwanted wild fires
  • Enhancing land-user involvement by contributing to the development and support of legal incentives and disincentives
  • Enhancing the capability of land-users and land management and jurisdictional agencies to reduce the risk of ignition and spread of unwanted fires, and to detect and assess fires early
  • The restoration of areas after intense fires in order to improve natural processes


3. Advocating and assisting with the implementation of appropriate land-management strategies through:-

  • A platform for fire awareness of education amongst land-users and the general public
  • Greater awareness of relevant laws, ordinances, by-laws, and compliance among partner groups and local communities.



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