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Fire season programme fosters readiness

The annual Western Cape Fire Season awareness programme was recently hosted at Lourensford Wine Estate.

Anton Bredell, the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape, reminded the audience that wildfires this year had already led to nine fatalities, including one helicopter pilot.

“Every year the fire season seems to be getting worse,” he said. “Conditions across the province are hazardous following a devastating three-year drought that has seen lots of brush and veld die. If the veld catches alight and the wind takes the flames, the results can be devastating.”

Bredell says a critical part of the plan to address wildfires includes aerial resources.

“We have access to eight helicopters, four water bombers and eight spotter command and control aircraft, which can be deployed to incidents across the province. There are 36 runways available and prepared for these aircraft to use in case of need. Critical partners include Working on Fire, the City of Cape Town’s Fire Services and various district municipality fire services, Sanparks, CapeNature, the volunteer fire fighters and various fire protection associations. Without the cooperation of all these entities fire would be a much greater challenge than it already is.”

The aerial resources will be complemented by 1 550 municipal firefighters across the province, bolstered by approximately 1 020 seasonal firefighters (municipal and other organisations).

There are also 27 Working on Fire (WoF) teams with about 830 firefighters in the Western Cape, and an additional 500 firefighters in other provinces who can be called upon if required.

Bredell has also stated that the public’s help is critical, and he called on visitors and residents of the Western Cape to act quickly and responsibly to prevent fires and when seeing fires.

He said: “Early fire warnings remain critical to controlling fires quickly. When a fire does break out, getting control over it as quickly as possible is vital. If we can get to a fire within the first hour the possibility of a major incident is minimised.”

The minister advises the public to report fires immediately and not to assume it has been reported.

When reporting fires in the Western Cape please contact the Local District Municipality:

. City of Cape Town – 107 or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone

. Overberg – 028 425 1690

. West Coast – 022 433 8700

. Eden – 044 805 5071

. Central Karoo – 023 414 2603

. Cape Winelands – 021 887 4446

Bredell thanked emergency services officials and volunteers for being prepared to risk their lives for others. “We honour disaster management officials for the passion and never ending sacrifices they and their families make for the well-being of others,” he said. “This is especially true over the festive season.”

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