Minister Edna Molewa urges vigilance from communities and landowners during winter fire season

30 August 2017


The Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr. Edna Molewa has urged communities and landowners to remain vigilant and protect themselves and their properties from the potential devastation of wildfires.

Dr. Molewa further urged people to heed the daily Fire Danger Index (FDI) warnings issued by the South African Weather Service (SAWS).

This comes as a large contingent of firefighters from the Department’s Working on Fire programme, in collaboration with local Fire Protection Associations (FPA’s) battled 27 fires that engulfed the Mpumalanga Highveld last week.

Areas of concern in the province for the week ahead include Ermelo, Warburton, Mayflower and Piet Retief.

Apart from the Western Cape that experiences a summer fire season, the rest of South Africa experiences a winter fire season; exacerbated by the current drought experienced throughout the country as well as high temperatures. Between May and August this year there have been 81 fires in Mpumalanga, including grassland and plantation fires.

Working on Fire was requested to provide 150 firefighters as a standby resource by the Mpumalanga Umbrella Fire Protection Association (MUFPA).

Their partnership with the Mkhondo and Umpuluzi Fire Protection Associations forms one of the biggest team mobilisations for the 2017 Winter Fire Season. These firefighters have been deployed from the Western Cape (100) and KwaZulu-Natal (50) respectively.

In addition to Mpumalanga, over the past week close to 1000 firefighters from Working on Fire battled more than 80 fires, in the Eastern Cape (7), Free State (23), North West (1) Gauteng (23), Limpopo (8) and KwaZulu-Natal (23).

The ground resources include, 10 Fire Trucks, 8 Buses, 4 Strike Units and 12 bakkies with water pumps, 7 Spotter Planes, 4 Helicopters and 3 Fixed Wing Water Bombers were deployed to fight the fires.

This government funded programme has 5000 fully trained wild-land firefighters at 200 bases throughout South Africa and provides an essential wild-land fire suppression service to landowners and municipalities across the country.

The Mpumalanga Partnership between Working on Fire and MUFPA has seen landowners investing millions of rands over the years in protecting their assets and those of neighbours against wildfires.  

“It is encouraging to witness landowners collaborating with municipal, provincial and national authorities on fire suppression and management activities, and I encourage all landowners to join their local FPA’s,” said Dr. Molewa.

The Department reiterates its call on people not to start any unnecessary fires.

Note to Editors:

Fire suppression data for the current Winter Fire Season since 1 April 2017: Working on Fire has provided fire suppression services at more than 800 fires and limited the damage to just under 122 000 hectares. The Working on Fire aerial firefighting aircraft flew more than 600 hours during these fires.

Working on Fire also took part in one of the biggest mobilisation of firefighting resources when the programme dispatched ground and aerial resources to assist with the Knysna fires in June this year.

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