WOF Aviation offers assistance with Knysna fires

6 Sep,2017Profiles, WoFire News

The recent devastating fires experienced in Knysna, Portugal, Las Vegas and Australia send a clear message – climate change is a reality and should be taken seriously.

These fires damaged and destroyed properties, scarred the environment and claimed lives. They started unexpectedly, spread rapidly and required a great deal of resources to control. In the early stages of the Knysna wildfires, Working on Fire Aviation (WOF Aviation) was called on to provide aerial resources from the North, in order to assist firefighting ground teams in combatting the raging wildfires.

“This plea for aerial assistance from the Southern Cape created a dilemma for WOF Aviation, since the winter fire season had already started and all our aerial resources were committed and dedicated to paying clients,” said Mike Assad, National WOF Aviation Manager.

WOF Aviation is charged with implementing the aerial firefighting component of the Department of Environment Affairs’ Working on Fire programme. All the resources for this tasking are supplied by Kishugu Aviation, which also holds the Air Operating Certificate (AOC). As news continued to pour in about the devastation taking place down south, WOF Aviation approached the winter clients to consider releasing some of their resources to boost fire suppression capabilities in Knysna and surrounding areas. Without hesitation, the following Fire Protection Associations (FPAs) immediately agreed to assist. The Lowveld and Escarpment FPA (LEFPA), managed by André Scheepers, provided two AT 802 fixed wing water Bombers; Letaba Umbrella FPA (LFPA), under Trevor Phillips, provided a Huey helicopter;     Ermelo Municipality’s Fire Chief, Jaco Johnstone, provided a Huey and Spotter; while the Eastern Cape Umbrella FPA, under Thinus Botha, released three Spotters. All in all, the winter fire season clients unselfishly released a total of eight aerial firefighting resources to assist in the Southern Cape. “This is a true reflection of camaraderie and partnerships exhibited by our local FPAs and we sincerely thank you,” said Mike Assad. He also hailed the WOF Aviation pilots, who fought those fires in horrific windy and dangerous conditions, and displayed the utmost professionalism. Wildfires, if not reported early on, can cause great devastation.  It is very important that communities be vigilant during fire seasons. If you notice a fire, contact your local FPA immediately so that Working on Fire resources can be dispatched as soon as possible. Delayed responses to a fire can have disastrous effects, as wildfires spread within minutes. This can cause property to burn to the ground, destroy the environment and most importantly, it can cost lives.