Helicopter ace Gert honoured for firefighting
By Bunty West
Gert Uys of Panorama was sitting at home, enjoying a rare day off from his job in the film industry, when the South Peninsula went up in flames last year. Within minutes of hearing that the fire was out of control, he was on the phone offering his help.
On Monday, he received recognition for his part as a private helicopter pilot at an awards ceremony at the Simon's Town naval base.
In his small Jet Ranger helicopter, complete with Bambi bucket underneath, he dropped more than 400 000 litres of water on hot spots and between houses in Simon's Town, where the larger Alouettes couldn't go.
Local Government MEC Pierre Uys presented certificates of appreciation to the organisations which helped fight the fires. Because helicopters played a vital role, the province would make available R1,2 million for a private helicopter for fire fighting, he said.
'Everyone cheered when the water was released and it was a direct hit'
His story is no different from hundreds of others who volunteered, yet his role made a difference to the people of Simon's Town whose homes were threatened by the fires that raged last January.
Uys flew helicopters while in the SAAF and fought many fires during his time with the force.
However, in his private helicopter with the little bucket containing just 500 litres of water, he was able to fly at low altitudes (10m) above the heads of the people below.
"It was the fear in their eyes as they watched the fires creeping near their properties which spurred me on. Everyone cheered when the water was released and it was a direct hit," he said.
Other recipients of awards were Task Force West (Silvermine), Group One (Youngsfield), 9 SA Infantry Battalion, 4 Special Forces Regiment (Langebaan), Forward Air Command Post (Cape Town), Central Flying School (Langebaan Road), Air Force Base (Ysterplaat), 22 Squadron (AFB Ysterplaat), Naval Base Simon's Town, SAS Saldanha, 2 Military Hospital, Institute of Maritime Medicine (Simon's Town), military police (Wynberg), Gauteng fire service, Garden Route/Klein Karoo District municipality, the Police Service and the Metro Emergency Services.
Published on the Web by IOL on 2001-03-12 21:25:06
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