Wildfire Ready Convention held at Lourensford Wine Estate, Western Cape
The #Wildfire Ready Convention was held between 28 and 29 November 2018 at Lourensford Wine Estate, situated in the Western Cape and focussed on wildfires in wildland-urban interface (WUI). The convention hosted international experts from Canada, USA and Europe as well as local fire specialists and provided an opportunity to discuss the recent disastrous wildfires and the impact of the wildland-urban interface. The event coincided with the annual launch of the Western Cape’s wildfire season and was attended by 270 delegates.
The focus of the #Wildfire Ready Convention was on how, through integrated fire management and its four operational components ie reduction, readiness, response and recovery, linked to the wildland-urban interface as the distinct focus, fire authorities can concentrate not only on how to fight these fires but also shared best practices for the prevention and mitigation of wildfires.
Minister Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, reminded the audience that wildfires this year have already led to nine fatalities. “Every year, the fire season seems to be getting worse. Conditions across the province are hazardous following the 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”, said Bredell.
To showcase some of the resources that are available in the upcoming fire season, Working on Fire ground and aerial crew, which included a fixed-wing spotter, two Huey helicopters and two Air Tractor 802 water bombers, supported by NCC and City of Cape Town fire fighters, participated in a fire fighting demonstration. The demonstration highlighted the interaction between ground and aerial fire fighting teams and clearly demonstrated how an integrated response is needed when dealing with a wildfire, especially in its initial stages.
“We have access to eight helicopters, four water bombers and eight spotter command and control aircraft that can be deployed to incidents across the province. There are 36 runways available and prepared for these aircraft to utilise in case of need”, Bredell added. “These aerial resources will be complemented by 1 550 municipal fire fighters across the province, bolstered by approximately 1 020 seasonal fire fighters (municipal and other organisations). There are also 27 Working on Fire (WoF) teams with about 700 fire fighters in the Western Cape and an additional 500 fire fighters in other provinces who can be called upon if required”.
The Western Cape Umbrella Fire Protection Association’s (WCUFPA) Philip Prins, opened the convention and a warm welcome was extended by Dr Christo Wiese of Lourensford Wine Estate.
Key partners at the launch and Widfire Ready Convention included, amongst others, Working on Fire, Kishugu, SANParks, CapeNature, Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue and various fire protection associations. Both the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) make contributions on how fire authorities can prevent and prepare for fire disasters.
One of the main sponsors of the #WildfireReady Convention, Santam, applauded the organisers and those attending for being proactive in making sure that everyone involved in wildfire management, including communities and landowners, are working towards the same objectives.
John Lomberg, stakeholder relationship manager at Santam said, “It is becoming harder to ignore the fact that climate change has become the “new normal” and that this demands a new response from businesses and the communities in which they operate. It is for that reason that we support initiatives like the Wildfire Convention. We have to respond with the urgency for transformative collaboration to address the challenges brought about by climate change. The sustainability of our organisations and resilience of our communities is dependent on our ability to cooperate and partner with each other to achieve our respective business and societal objectives’, Lomberg added.
Other main sponsors of the Convention included the Lourensford Estate as well as Kishugu and Working on Fire.
Speakers at the event included NDMC’s Dr Mmaphaka Tau, WoF’s Trevor Abrahams, Eric Kurtz from the US who spoke about the current fire siege in California, Catalan Fire Service’s Marc Castellnou who spoke about setting the scene for the Future, Dr Christo Marais spoke about fuel load reduction, Dr Philip Frost who presented on the Advanced Fire Information (AFIS), Dr Peter Johnston who spoke about climate change.
Dr Jack Cohen of the US Forest Service (retired) presented on the home ignition zone, Greg Forsyth discussed WUI fire risk assessment, NDMC’s Dr Moses Khangale spoke about overlapping policy and legislation, City of Cape Town’s CFO Ian Schnetler discussed interagency cooperation, US Forest Service’s Tim Murphy dealt with suppression and the incident command system (ICS), Etienne du Toit discussed dispatch and coordination, Hugo Arceo of Air Tractor Europe provided information on aerial fire fighting and the AT-802 bomber, Dr Hildegarde Fast discussed the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative and Japie Buckle shared Knysna’s post fire recovery.
Training workshops coincided with the event and included Home Ignition Zone Training presented by Dr Jack Cohen and Fireline Safety Training presented by Vulcan Training.
Fire and Rescue International will provide a detailed review of the convention in its next edition.
Photographs: Zania Viljoen, Working on Fire; Dirk Smit, Southern Cape FPA and Simon McDonnell, STAT-Tiakeni Medical.
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