The burning issue of female hairstyles has spread to the City’s Fire and Rescue department.
Firefighters tell the Daily Voice they’ve been warned against wearing synthetic hair because it’s considered a fire hazard.
But the City of Cape Town says its policy on braids and weaves are for the women’s own good.
A former senior fireman says he had the “unpleasant task” of checking female members’ hair.
The 41-year-old man, who asked not to be identified, says: “My job was to ensure that none of the women had synthetic hair during roll call. If they did, then I had to ask them to remove it.”
“It was embarrassing to the women because they spent so much money on their hair, then I had to tell them to take it out.
“If they didn’t take it out, then I’d have to report them and they would be taken off the fire engine.
“Some of them were in tears.”
The revelation comes as schoolgirls across the country are calling for regulations to be reviewed to allow them to wear afros, weaves and braids in class.
A 41-year-old female firefighter confirmed that she and her colleagues are often questioned about their hair.
“When I had cornrows I was asked by my superior if it’s my own hair,” she says.
“He said he was asking because of the policy.
“We are not allowed to have weaves or braids in case it catches fire. But we all wear flash hoods as part of our protective gear.
Another woman says they want to feel feminine in their male-dominated profession, but they are not allowed to.
“We are women and we must look like women, but not everyone is happy about us wearing synthetic hair,” she says.
A senior fireman and union representative claims the hair policy is not consistent and is only applied at certain stations.
“We have had reports from Brackenfell, Strand, Macassar and Khayelitsha – these are the stations where most of the black female firefighters are,” he says.
“If they say the hair is a fire hazard and can burn during a fire, then we are all at risk because we all wear the same fire gear.”
The City’s Fire and Rescue spokesperson Theo Layne says they are in the process of reviewing the policy.
“Hair extensions are a relatively new issue which has arisen, and as such we are in the process of reviewing the policy to see how best we could accommodate such,”he says.