Both wildfire and unemployment have long been pervasive problems in South Africa.
Chaparral and shrubs burn fiercely in the west, as do dry grasses and thickets in the north. Meanwhile, some one in four South Africans is unemployed.
So how do these relate?
In 2003, the South African government piloted a program called “Working on Fire” (WoF) that addresses both by recruiting disadvantaged South Africans, training them extensively, and then hiring them as wildland firefighters. The program creates much-needed jobs while keeping wildfires at bay.
WoF now has some 5,000 participants across 200 bases. The wages these firefighters collect help provide for more than 25,000 people across the country, by some estimates.
The program has been such a success that Kishugu, the private organization that runs and manages, WoF, rapidly expanded it throughout the world, maintaining operations in seven countries and four continents.
In the March/April issue of NFPA Journal, staff writer Jesse Roman speaks with Val Charlton, division director of Public Benefit Organization at Kishugu.
In this in-depth interview, Charlton talks about the main causes of fire in South Africa, how the WoF model developed, and how NFPA is involved. Read the full interview here.
Also, check out our podcast of the interview.
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