WOF MPU Canada deployees return home

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GK CRONJE

28 September 2021

Khumalo was crowned the best female runner at the pre-deployment camp in Hekpoort, Gauteng, where the WOF crew underwent Refresher Training to ensure they are fit and ready for the conditions expected in Canada.

Suzuki Ermelo (WEB) 22 September 2020.jp

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Working on Fire Programme’s 109 firefighters returned to South African soil with high praises, from Canadian Fire Authorities, after 34 days in the Province of Manitoba, Canada. Aptly named the Black Bear Hotshots after an encounter with a bear in Manitoba, the team landed safely in South Africa on Thursday, 16 September 2021. Canada has been engulfed with wildland fires as of July 2021, and had resorted to South Africa for assistance under the Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries, which provided the exchange of Wildland Fire Management Resources. WOF firefighters joined firefighters from Canada and the USA, and were deployed on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, as well as into The Pas-Cranberry Portage region. Working on Fire Mpumalanga boasted of seven representatives in the WOF contingent. Led by Walter Khoza, Ground Operations Manager in the Highveld region, the firefighters consisted of Sibusiso Ngobeni (Crewleader of the Mlambongwane team ), Sphilile Khumalo (Piet Retief), Bongani Sifunda (Barberton), Siphesihle Makhubu (Wakkerstroom ), Sipho Mlotshwa (Badplaas) and Itumeleng Mogane (Wilgeboom).

WOF Mpumalanga General Manager, Martin Bolton, welcomed the firefighters when they returned to the province with words of praise. “We are proud of you, and what you achieved in Canada. Your hard work and dedication have been noted and appreciated. You represented the organization, province, and country well, and well done,” Bolton said. Sphilile Khumalo was the only woman from Working on Fire Mpumalanga, and it was a many of firsts for her. This was the first time Spihilile was deployed outside of the country, and her first time on an airplane. Recruited in 2014, in Piet Retief, Khumalo has had a tumultuous fitness journey in WOF, citing the tough WOF fitness standard as her biggest challenge, adding that she failed at times, and recorded poor performance, but she told herself that she would overcome, and she did. Khumalo began her own fitness regime at home, and worked on her physicality. Her hard work and determination bore fruit, because Khumalo was crowned the best female runner at the pre-deployment camp in Hekpoort, Gauteng, where the WOF crew underwent Refresher Training to ensure they are fit and ready for the conditions expected in Canada. Indeed, a proud moment for the participant and WOF Mpumalanga, and according to Ground Operation Manager, Walter Khoza, Khumalo outperformed a few males on her way to her crowning glory.