A critical shortage of staff and service vehicles has crippled Bulawayo City Council’s fire and ambulance services department, latest council minutes reveal.
The rescue service department is facing a myriad of challenges, chief among them brain drain and lack of service vehicles as well as modern equipment to respond to emergencies.
In September, it emerged that the Bulawayo Fire Brigade had lost 38 qualified firefighters and officers since January 2023 while only four water tenders are operational.
Despite its sorry state, the fire rescue department is expected to respond to emergencies in Kwekwe, Hwange, Beitbridge, Gwanda, Plumtree, Masvingo and Zvishavane, according to chamber secretary Sikhangele Zhou.
“She highlighted the challenges at the fire and ambulance services which included shortage of service vehicles and staff resignations especially the fire brigade section,” read the latest council minutes.
“The water shedding was adversely affecting the service as firefighting generally depended on the hydrant system.”
The council said it had not bought any fire tender for the past 40 years.
“All fire ambulances in the city were donated by a UK organisation Operation Florian,” the minutes said.
“Uniforms, helmets, breathing apparatus and other equipment were also donated by the organisation.
“Furthermore council paid their salaries in local currency resulting in the loss of trained personnel going to even smaller towns who were paying in United States dollars.”
Council recently said it was seeking more than 45 000 pounds to ship three fire tenders from the United Kingdom which were donated by the Operation Florian mission.
Operation Florian has been donating fire tenders to the council over the years.
Last year, councillors rejected then Local Government minister July Moyo’s plan to divert devolution funds to acquire fire tenders for the city from Belarus.
According to the minutes, the council was also battling a shortage of ambulances.
“The ideal number of ambulances was 30 and there were only six running per day,” the minutes said.
“Every year there was a capital budget for ambulances, but they had not been procured.”
Council once lost more than $300 000 to a briefcase Harare company in an ambulance procurement deal in 2010 after paying for the supply of six ambulances.
The company disappeared without trace.