Department of Environmental Affairs’ flagship Working On Fire programmme instrumental in battling Cape fires

04 March 2015


Multiple fires have engulfed parts of the Cape Town South Peninsula for the past three days: with a total of 200 firefighters on the frontlines, including 150 from the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire (WoF) programme and an additional 50 from Volunteer Wildfires Services.

An additional 250 WoF firefighters have been dispatched from other provinces to join teams on the ground. Working on Fire has a total of 5 000 firefighters around the country, ready to be deployed to the Western Cape if needed.

These young men and women are part of veld and forest firefighting ground crews, stationed at bases around the country, which help stop the scourge of wild fires which cost the South African economy billions of rands annually.

To date, four helicopters, two water bombers, and one spotter plane have been up in the air since Sunday trying to contain the fire.

A total of 26 aircraft (11 helicopters, 6 fixed wing bombers, and 9 spotters) which are based in Tulbagh, Porterville, Donkerhoek, Stellenbosch, Bredasdorp, Stilbaai, Newlands, Plettenbergbay and Knysna have been deployed to fight these eleven (11) fires.

At least 198 flying hours have been lodged by Working on Fire resulting in 2 000 water drops, equivalent to about 2 million litres of water. The flying hours cost is currently estimated at R2.4 million.

WoF has partnered with a range of organisations in areas where some of the firefighters are based. This includes: Cape Nature (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).

“The teams from Working on Fire became involved with the programme because they wanted to make a difference: bringing their skills to helping, educating and teaching their communities – we should be proud of them,” says Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.

Minister Molewa was speaking from a briefing in Cape Town, where she was given a status update by officials from Working on Fire. A Department of Environmental Affairs team, led by Deputy Director-General:  Environmental Programmes, Dr Guy Preston, performed an aerial survey of the fire-damaged areas in conjunction with SANParks on 03 March 2015.

About the programme

Working on Fire is a multi-million-rand job creation Environmental Sector Programme under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP): primarily geared towards assisting government to fulfil its job creation and social upliftment mandate to the people of South Africa.

On average, some of 54% of the government funds are spent on wages with an additional 24% spent on indirect employee costs such as training, personal protective equipment (PPE) and transport.

This is the highest level of beneficiary benefits of the EPWP Programmes and has been confirmed in recent impact studies where beneficiaries have reported significant changes in their lives and their families’ living standards.

For media queries contact:

Zolile Nqayi
Cell: 082 898 6483