Environmental Affairs ready for upcoming winter fire season

Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire team ready for upcoming winter fire season

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire has been hard at work during the last few months as its firefighters were busy preparing for the 2018 Winter Fire Season which usually starts in early June.

Just over 4 000 firefighters stationed at 160 bases throughout South Africa will be ready for the start of the Winter Fire Season which could last up to the end of November this year.

Yellow Card Training Camps will be undertaken in Northern provinces during April, aimed at ensuring that all firefighters are fit and ready to be on active duty during this upcoming fire season.

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, lauded the Working in Fire firefighters for their foresight and hard work in preparing for the fire seasons in good time.

These firefighters are professionally trained to suppress veld and forest fires, and have been deployed throughout the country to reduce the personal and economic harm caused by unwanted wildfires, said Minister Molewa.

The entire country was gripped in one of the most devastating droughts in living memory over the last two to three years with some parts still being severely impacted on by droughts with a negative effect on the economy as a whole.

As a result of the current drought experienced throughout the country a very difficult Winter Fire Season is expected, however through partnerships with Provincial Disaster Management Centres, Fire Protection Associations, SANParks, various private and public landowners and local municipalities, the department will be able to respond quickly in rendering a highly skilled veldfire suppression service which is unparalleled anywhere in the country.

Working on Fire has also established a National Deployment team which can be dispatched to anywhere in the country to assist farmers and land owners with fire suppression efforts.

Minister Molewa has urged landowners to work with Working on Fire so that they can be assisted with the development of clear integrated fire management services which includes amongst others, prescribed burning, fuel load reduction, community fire awareness, early detection and fire suppression plans.

The Working on Fire team will also launch the Community Fire Awareness Campaigns throughout the country in April and these campaigns will be aimed at teaching communities how to be fire safe in order to prevent unwanted veld and forest fires and to raise awareness of the risk of veld and forest fires, while empowering those at risk to take responsibility to reduce the danger and impact of fires in their communities.

Working on Fire will do presentations that will highlight the threat of fires and how to reduce fire risks in communities. Firefighters will demonstrate how to construct fire breaks and do fuel reduction which helps eliminate fire spread in case of a fire.

Minister Molewa has reiterated the importance for South Africa as a whole, in adapting to climate change, referring to recent natural disasters like the droughts, fires and floods.

We also urge communities to be more vigilant during this fire season and not to start unnecessary fires particularly during dry days this winter, said Minister Molewa.

Communities should also take extra care by removing unnecessary rubble on their properties which can pose a serious fire risk, and to cut down overhanging tree branches close to their properties and clean their gutters as the leaves that end up in these gutters also can pose a fire risk.

Houses next to grasslands need to ensure that there is sufficient fire breaks between their properties and these grasslands.

For safety precautions, members of the community should ensure that they have the contact details of their local fire authorities at hand should there be a fire emergency.

Source: Government of South Africa