Western Cape showcase readiness for Summer Fire Season
Just over 200 delegates attended the official opening of the Western Cape Wildfire Season at the Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West, on 28 November 2018, held under the auspices of the Western Cape Umbrella Fire Protection Association (Representing all five Fire Protection Associations).
Anton Bredell, the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape, reminded the audience that wildfires this year have already led to nine fatalities.
“Every year the fire season seems to be getting worse. Conditions across the province are hazardous following the devastating three-year drought that has seen lots of brush and veld die. If the veld catches alight and the wind takes the flames, the results can be devastating.”
To showcase some of the resources that are available in the upcoming fire season, Working on Fire ground and aerial crews (One fixed Wing Spotter Plane, two Huey Helicopters and two Air Tractor 802 water bombers) supported by NCC and City of Cape Town firefighters, participated in a firefighting demonstration.
This fire demonstration highlighted the interaction between ground and aerial firefighting teams and clearly demonstrated how an integrated response is needed when dealing with a wildfire, especially in its initial stages.
“We have access to 8 helicopters, 4 water bombers and 8 spotter command and control aircraft that can be deployed to incidents across the province. There are 36 runways available and prepared for these aircraft to utilize in case of need”, Bredell said.
“These aerial resources will be complemented by 1550 municipal firefighters across the province, bolstered by approximately 1020 seasonal firefighters (municipal and other organisations). There are also 27 Working on Fire (WOF) teams with about 700 firefighters in the Western Cape, and an additional 500 firefighters in other provinces who can be called upon if required”.
The official opening of the fire season also coincided with the hosting of the first major Wildfire Ready Convention in the Western Cape at the same venue, from 28-29 November 2018.
Key partners at the launch and Widfire Ready Convention included among other Working on Fire, Kishugu, SANParks, CapeNature, Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre and City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue.
This two-day convention focussed on the future of targeting wildfires in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) and several international (USA and Europe) speakers and local fire authorities and fire protection associations were in attendance.
Both the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) made contributions on how fire authorities can prevent and prepare for fire disasters.
The key focus was on how, through Integrated Fire Management and its four operational components – reduction, readiness, response and recovery – linked to the Wildland-Urban Interface as the distinct focus, fire authorities can concentrate, not only on how to fight these fires, but also share best practices for the prevention and mitigation of wildfire events.
Speakers included Tim Murphy (US Forest Service and Northern Rockies Coordinating Group), Dr. Christo Marais (DEA), Dr, Jack Cohen (US Forest Services), Mr Hugo Arceo (Air Tractor Europe), Dr Mmaphaka Tau (National Disaster Management Centre) and Trevor Abrahams (Working on Fire).
One of the main sponsors of the Wildfire Ready Convention, SANTAM, applauded the organisers and those attending for being proactive in making sure that everyone involved in wildfire management, including communities and landowners, are working towards the same objectives.
Other main sponsors of the Convention included the Lourensford Estate, Kishugu and Working on Fire.