Minister urges vigilance during winter fire season
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 warning comes after a large contingent of firefighters from the Department’s Working on Fire programme, in collaboration with local Fire Protection Associations (FPAs), had to battle 27 fires that engulfed the Mpumalanga Highveld.
Ermelo, Warburton, Mayflower and Piet Retief were also noted as risk areas of concern in the province.
Except for the Western Cape that experiences a summer fire season, the rest of South Africa experiences a winter fire season.
This has been exacerbated by the current drought experienced throughout the country as well as high temperatures.
Between May and August this year there were 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).
These firefighters have been deployed from the Western Cape (100) and KwaZulu-Natal (50).
The partnership with the Mkhondo and Umpuluzi Fire Protection Associations forms one of the biggest team mobilizations for the 2017 winter fire season.
In addition to Mpumalanga, over the past week close to 1000 firefighters from Working on Fire battled fires in the Eastern Cape (7), Free State (23), North West (1), Gauteng (23), Limpopo (8) and KwaZulu-Natal (23).
In addition to ground resources, 10 fire trucks, eight buses, four strike units and 12 bakkies with water pumps, seven spotter planes, four helicopters and three fixed-wing water bombers were deployed to fight the fires.
“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 FPAs,” says Dr. Molewa.
The Department reiterates its call to people not to start any unnecessary fires.
Working on Fire 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 (1 April 2017 – 30 July 2017).
Working on Fire also took part in one of the biggest mobilization of firefighting resources to date when the programme dispatched ground and aerial resources to assist with the Knysna fires in June this year.