Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s firefighting team is set to get a boost with 19 new members.
This was revealed by safety and security political head John Best yesterday at a standing committee meeting.
A report to the councillors showed that five people had died in fires between January and March.
The municipality has a severe shortage of firefighters, with only one crew at every station.
At least two crews are needed for every station to cover the different shifts.
With the 19 new members, the municipality will have 92 firefighters but this is still short of the 144 required to cover the various stations and shifts.
The department dealt with 360 emergency calls related to fires in March, according to the report.
Patriotic Alliance councillor Marlon Daniels said a staff shortage in the fire department could result in more deaths.
“One life lost in a fire is one too many. I was told in the next financial year [2017-18] only 10 firefighters will be employed. That is not acceptable.”
Best agreed with Daniels that more firefighters were needed.
“We have nine additional firefighters that will be added in the team soon and there is 10 budgeted for in the next financial year. This means we will have 19 firefighters.”
DA councillor Gustav Rautenbach said other municipal departments needed to be involved in dealing with emergency cases that included fires.
“There are areas in informal settlements that are not that easy to access because the streets are too narrow. We need human settlements to be involved in dealing with that,” he said.