Minister applauds firefighters for saving lives

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has commended the department’s Working on Fire officials for their firefighting efforts and saving lives this summer. 

“Since the summer fire season officially began in the Western Cape on the first of December 2021, Working on Fire has assisted in fighting and suppressing 25 fires across the province with a total of 26 firefighting teams deployed to date,” the Minister said on Tuesday.

She made these remarks during her visit to the Kleinmond area following a fire which destroyed 5 417ha of vegetation and left one structure burnt last week.

To date, a total of 5 644 hectares have been burnt since the start of the 2021/22 summer fire season with no reported loss of life and minimal structural damage. 

Creecy said the 2021/22 summer fire season is anticipated to be busy.

“This can be attributed to the impact of climate change and extreme weather conditions presently being experienced in various parts of the province. An excellent example that most of you can relate to is the extremely high temperatures experienced in the province in the last two weeks.

“Because of a decrease in humidity and drier conditions, it is important that all the necessary resources are in place to combat wildfires. Aerial firefighting is an integral part of that critical resource and plays a crucial role in integrated fire management,” the Minister said.

The planes and helicopters supply water mixed with fire suppressants to strategic spots on the fireline, reducing heat and enabling ground teams to move in closer to the fire and snuff out the flames.

The Minister has attributed climate change to the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

“Consequently, the need for, and relevance of, effective firefighting resources to manage Wildland Fires, is therefore now more important than before,” Creecy said.

Two other factors are important to reduce the risk of fire and ensure effective combatting once a fire breaks out.

“Firstly, the presence of vegetation such as pine trees and black wattle pose significant risks as they are extremely flammable and greatly exacerbate the intensity of wildfires. Once again, we urge private landowners to be cognisant of these risks and be responsible for the clearing of such highly flammable alien vegetation.

“Secondly, as a department we are in the process of amending necessary legislation, such as the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill, to make it a requirement for municipalities, private landowners, and other stakeholders in wildfire risk areas to be members of local Fire Protection Associations.

“Such associations are essential in fighting wildfires and coordinating resources and the immediate response to such risks,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za

 

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