Firefighters deployed across SA

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire programme has deployed almost 300 firefighters and pilots to help manage fires across South Africa.

The department said they have been hard at work over the past few weeks as the firefighters have been busy fighting four major fires in the Overberg District of the Western Cape.

In total, these fires caused partial destruction or damage to 28 structures, while 41 structures were completely destroyed. The estimated value is still being evaluated.

The department has urged communities to be more vigilant during this fire season and not to start unnecessary fires, particularly during windy days this summer.

“Communities are also asked to remove unnecessary rubble on their properties, which can pose a serious fire risk, and homeowners next to grasslands need to ensure that there are sufficient fire breaks between their properties and these grasslands.

“We also request people to cut down overhanging tree branches close to their properties and to clean their gutters as the leaves that end up in these gutters can also pose a fire risk. People must also ensure that they have the contact details of their local fire authorities at hand should there be a fire emergency,” the department said.

The department said extra care must be taken to ensure that landowners clear all invasive alien vegetation, which continues to pose significant fire risks in these dry conditions in the Western Cape.

“These invasive plants burn at a very high temperature and when fuelled by strong winds and hot weather conditions, they can cause significant ecological damage for years to come, which can prevent regrowth of the natural indigenous vegetation,” the department said.

The Working on Fire programme in the Western Cape has 700 firefighters stationed at 27 bases available to provide support to provincial, district and local fire authorities and a further 500 fire-fighters on national standby to be deployed to the Western Cape, should there be a need.

Currently about 100 firefighters from the Free State have already been deployed in the Western Cape since December 2018, and a further 49 firefighters from other provinces are assisting in the Table Mountain National Park. –