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‘I am very proud of Fire Services’

With the remarkable team of dedicated firefighters, ground teams, contractors and partners working on over 1 500 fires during a six-month period, the Fire Services remains one of the units of which I am very proud of and this fire season was no exception.

These were the opening words of Dr Helena von Schlicht, the Executive Mayor of the Cape Winelands District Municipality (CWDM), at the CWDM fire season feedback meeting held in Worcester on 3 May.

The CWDM’s Fire Services is a core function of the organisation that responded to and extinguished over 1 200 veldt or wild fires during the six-month fire season, which runs from November to the end of April.

The firefighting unit’s chief, Danie Wilds, explained to the audience: “The only way we (Fire Services) can achieve our goals is through partnerships and team work. I would like to thank the many partners that we have, including Cape Nature, the Fire Protection Association (FPA), the local municipalities, our contractors for aerial support, and those who provide ground crews such as Stem in die Bos and Working on Fire.”

“It is impossible to fight a fire without ground crews. Many people think that once the helicopter is there the fire will be put out – this is not the case. A fire is extinguished by a combination of ground crews who try to contain the fire so that aerial support can be effective,” he added.

The FPA mentioned that additional challenges included that landowners needed to ensure that their properties are correctly protected according to legislation. Cape Nature commented that the majority of fires are started by open fires in restricted areas and the uncontrolled burning of waste in areas adjacent to the veld.

“The remarkable support from landowners and the private sector helped tremendously during the worst fire of the season, which was the one that carried on for eight days in Montagu and threatened the actual town,” said Wilds.

“However, in general the season was good. We had rapid response times from all partners that helped keep things under control. Working with dedicated, well-trained teams allows us to achieve our goals of protecting life and property,” he concluded.

The CWDM’s Fire Services is a 24/7 service which serves an area of 27 000 km². The unit is supported by local fire stations in the major towns of the area and, when needed, by the City of Cape Town. The unit not only fight fires, but also has a dedicated training facility that offers both basic and advanced firefighter training.

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