In response to the call for assistance from partners, including Cape Nature, Overstrand Municipality, Overberg District Municipality, the Greater Overberg Municipality, Cape Winelands District Municipality, and the Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association, the Working on Fire-Kishugu Joint Venture (WOF-Kishugu JV) deployed resources to join multi-organisational firefighting efforts in the Western Cape, in what has been intense Summer Fire Season.
In January alone, resources were deployed to a total of 49 fires with the province experiencing major fires, including the Kluitjieskraal and Pringle Bay fires. In the Pringle Bay fire, five (5) teams had to camp in Kleinmond to support suppression efforts in that blaze, which engulfed significant areas in Betty’s Bay and Pringle Bay, prompting a swift and coordinated response from multiple teams.
Other WOF-Kishugu JV teams were relocated to another camp, which was established for the Kluitjieskraal fire, another fire incident that has already seen over 20,000 hectares of forest and vegetation destroyed in this region.
Throughout January 2024, the Working on Fire-Kishugu Joint Venture in the Western Cape battled a total of 49 fires, that destroyed more than 40 000 hectares of forest and vegetation. To date, the ground crews have been dispatched 227 times. The aerial resources, contributed to the firefighting efforts, clocking in 478 flight hours and executing 4,177 litre water drops.
Comparing the current circumstances to the same period in 2023, Working on Fire-Kishugu JV resources assisted in fighting 21 fires with the teams deployed 23 times. Aerial resources flew for over 200 hours making 1 089 litres of water drops.
The wildland fires can be attributed to weather conditions, fuel load, and human factors in the Western Cape, however, other factors including climate change, and the El Niño, and Niña weather patterns have contributed to their frequency. The rising temperatures and prolonged droughts associated with climate change create favourable conditions for the ignition and rapid spread of fires. The El Niño phenomenon contributes by inducing hotter and drier weather patterns, disrupting normal climatic conditions. On the other hand, La Niña, despite bringing increased rainfall, introduces variability that can lead to pockets of excessively dry conditions, increasing the overall wildland fire risk.
The collaborative efforts of firefighting teams, including the WOF-Kishugu JV, are crucial in navigating this complex interplay and mitigating the devastating impact of wildfires on the natural environment and communities. Addressing both the immediate challenges and the underlying contributors is essential for effective wildfire management and long-term climate resilience.
The Working on Fire-Kishugu Joint Venture, with its extensive ground and aerial resources, remains committed to supporting local authorities and communities, working collaboratively to mitigate the impact of these devastating fires and protect our natural environment. WOF teams in the northern provinces are also on high alert, prepared to potentially deploy to the Western Cape and support the provincial 829 firefighters already saving lives and protecting the environment in what has been an intense Summer Fire Season.
Limakatso Khalianyane (Working on Fire – Kishugu JV)
Phone: 065 976 6949 / 079 088 9513