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Launch of the Western Cape Summer Fire Season

01 December 2014

 

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) Working on Fire (WoF) programme officially launched the provincial summer fire season today on 01 December 2014 at the Stellenbosch Airfield, Cape Town.

Although the summer fire season officially starts on the 1st of December, the Western Cape has already experienced many multi-day fires since September 2014. Coupled with this year's worst fire season in seven years, recorded in the northern parts of South Africa, a rough fire season lies ahead for the Western Cape.

“However, we are ready for the upcoming fire season” said Dr Chisto Marais while delivering the keynote address on behalf of, Deputy Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs and custodian of the Working on Fire programme Ms Barbara Thomson.

Dr Marais was speaking at the event arranged by the WoF programme to launch the start of the Western Cape summer fire season, together with the Western Cape government's Disaster Management and Fire Brigade Services (WCDM&FBS) in Stellenbosch.

“During the upcoming fire season our strategy is to respond with the maximum amount of aircraft and ground teams to a fire in its early stages”, said Mr Anton Bredell, MEC of Local Government responsible for WCDM&FBS, who was also speaking at the event.

Dr Marais added: “WoF not only fights unwanted veld and forest fires, but also the scourge of poverty. The programme is one of governments leading Expanded Public Works job-creation and poverty alleviation programmes and recruits and trains young people into becoming professional veld and forest fire fighters.”

WoF, funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs plays a key role in the provision of both aerial and ground crew support during fires. During the upcoming fire season WoF will have the following resources available for utilisation by District Municipalities, WCDM&FBS and Fire Protection Associations (FPAs):

  • A total of 26 aircraft (11 helicopters, six fixed wing bombers and nine spotters) based in Tulbagh, Porterville, Donkerhoek, Stellenbosch, Bredasdorp, Stilbaai, Newlands, Plettenbergbay and Knysn
  • A total of 820 fully trained and super fit fire fighters based at 28 bases across the Western Cape.
  • A total of 5000 fire fighters from across the country, that could be deployed to the Western Cape, should the need arise

WoF prides itself on its partnerships with the following parties where some of the fire fighters are based: CapeNature (eight teams), SANParks (three teams), Southern Cape FPA (eight teams), Overberg District Municipality (two teams), Cape Peninsula FPA (two teams), Greater Cederberg FPA (three teams), Tulbagh/Wolseley FPA (one team), and City of Cape Town Nature Conservation (one team).

“Our pilots and fire fighters are on standby 24/7 and could reach a fire within 15 minutes of callout. The deployment of aerial resources is part of the rapid initial attack on fires and prevents fires from spreading and becoming bigger,” said  Dr Marais.

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Zolile Nqayi
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