CapeNature to receive funding to assist with raging fire

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cape Town - The Western Cape nature conservation agency, CapeNature, will receive an urgent boost of R2.5 million to assist with serious losses during the latest devastating fire in the Cederberg Nature Reserve.

Provincial Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Pierre Uys, said the funds would also be used to fight the wild veld fires raging in the province during this season.

Due to the current extreme weather conditions together with a number of destructive runaway wild veld fires that needed to be suppressed, Mr Uys said, strain had been put on CapeNature's resources and additional funding was required.

He said additional trained workers had to be called in to assist the staff at CapeNature.

"Additional trained and experienced workers on fire teams from Mpumalanga and the Free State were called in to assist the complement of 250 based in the Western Cape and to assist CapeNature's staff in fighting fires," he said.

He said some of the money will also be used for among others, transport and daily provisions for these fresh teams until the first effective rains fall after the dry season.

"R1 million of the assistance package is set aside to top up the exhausted funds for aerial fire fighting, so far R2.3 million had been used," he said.

At the Cederberg Reserve the fire destroyed an office complex and provision stores at Algeria. The minister noted that computer equipment was needed to restore tourism and financial record keeping and communication.

"Temporary office accommodation is needed together with furniture as well as equipment like an equipped bakkie, beaters and hand pumps to fight fires, replacement two-way radios with base unit and tools," Mr Uys said.

He added that independent wild fire investigators will also be appointed to determine the cause and origin of fires as well as to evaluate whether the fire-fighting actions were adequate and appropriate to improve responses to future occurrences.

The additional funding, he said, was given by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

Furthermore, the Department of Local Government has provided R1.7 million to municipalities, R425 000 to Cape Town and R225 000 per district municipality in support of aerial fire fighting for flying and stand-by time.

"This will impact immensely to improve response times and in ensuring fires are under control faster," he said, adding that due to the large number of fires over the last month, further assistance may be considered later.